I studied GIS, here’s what a politically balanced Ohio should look like.
Gerrymandering has become a pervasive problem in the United States that is employed to maximize political advantage over the next ten years. And thankfully the state courts are beginning to see what the problem is in light-red states like Ohio.
Last month the Ohio Supreme Court made a surprising move in a 4–3 decision where the Republican Chief Justice called on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to redo the maps. Specifically, he cited that despite Republicans winning 55% of the total vote the new map would have given them 87% of the fifteen congressional seats. Furthermore, the Chief Justice said that it violated a new provision in the state constitution which stated that the maps would be drawn without any intent to maximize the political advantage of one party over the other.
As a person who studied Geographic Information Systems (which is employed to redistrict states) I wondered if I could draw a congressional map that achieved three objectives. One VRA compliant district around Cleveland, create Compact Districts, create a Map was aligned with how the state voted. Without further ado where’s the map I made.
I started with the 11th Congressional district which was losing population dropped the arm from Akron and included the rest of the city of Cleveland except for the airport. The decision to change the district from majority to plurality African American was based on a Florida State Supreme Court decision where the 5th Congressional District was reconfigured to be more compact and said that as long as minorities represent a plurality for a district it meets constitutional muster. 56.8% of the district is minority majority, African Americans make up a plurality at 45.2% making it very likely an African American like Nina Turner or Shontel Brown will win.
Then I drew the rest of the districts around this VRA compliant district and used county borders to make the new 9th, 7th, 13th, and 14th a little more compact. There are less splits in counties compared to the Republican drawn map. Although I wasn’t happy about extending an arm from Akron to Painesville City, I did this so the neighboring 14th would include Mahoney County to make an NE Ohio centered district. I moved south to make Cincinnati whole and made the Columbus-based 3rd much more compact and gave it a Northern Surburban district.
Partisan Breakdown based on 2016/20 Partisan Voting Index:
Over the last eight years the northern half of Ohio has shifted to the right especially the 14th district which Obama won in 2012. The general blue trend in the Cleveland and the Toledo suburbs will make these areas politically competitive for the next several years as Biden somewhat improved on his margins in these areas compared to Clinton. The only way to make a map that was politically balanced was to cede Northern Columbus to the neighboring 15th and incorporate the rapidly blue suburbs outside Franklin County. To the south Hamilton County has 50,000 people more than the 785,000 needed to make a district so the western part is ceded to the more Republican 8th.
The 9th and the 7th are the most swing districts in the state and will likely be lost to team red during a Republican wave but may remain in Democratic hands during a neutral year. Northern Ohio has shifted right over the last ten years making these formerly lean Democratic areas a tossup. On the other, Central Ohio has shifted left especially Delaware County just north of Columbus making these areas more competitive for Republicans. Franklin county is 200,000 people short of supporting two districts, so the 15th grabs precincts in Delaware Counties and a pie slice from Jerome. While the number of African Americans decreases to 30.4%, I was able to increase the number of Asian Americans in district 15 from 2.4 to nearly 10%.
This is a fair map that accurately represents the light red nature of the Buckeye State. I was able to create compact districts that didn’t resemble salamanders and created three to four swing seats that favors neither party. I scored very high on proportionality and compactness using Dave’s Redistricting App, a tool that allows anyone to create their own districts.
I think a map like this should be adopted by the Ohio supreme Court since the Republicans recently released a third gerrymandered map. Although this map isn’t perfect it’s fair and balanced.