Posted by Michelle C. Whittaker on December 30, 2015
You may have missed this news over the holiday celebrations and political debates, but it’s a big one: the governor of the 11th largest state in the U.S. seeks to end gerrymandering. Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich is calling for an end to politically-motivated redistricting plans - a practice that Democrats and Republicans have used to game the system in their party’s favor.
Predictable Politics of Extremes
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Governor Kasich illustrated the need for dramatic redistricting reform. "We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district, you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes." Other governors have concerns with the way we draw districts. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a fellow Republican, called gerrymandering “a form of political subterfuge that stifles real political debate and deprives citizens of meaningful choices.” In states like Ohio and Maryland, the extremes win in the primary elections leaving general election voters to choose from candidates that are predetermined by party leaders, or advocate little to no legislative compromise. Safe districts lead to predictable election outcomes, as FairVote has been able to demonstrate for nearly 20 years.
Proponents of redistricting reform are hoping that a bipartisan effort will emerge in Ohio to reform congressional districts. Ohio voters passed a ballot initiative to ensure state legislative districts are created in a bipartisan process. Other Republican state officials support congressional redistricting reform but some state lawmakers are hesitant to make changes since congressional leaders, like former Speaker of the House John Boehner, are opposed to such reforms.
Time to Eliminate Partisan Gerrymandering and Create Competitive Districts
It’s clear Kasich sees redistricting reform as a critical issue. “We’ve got to have more competitive districts. That, to me, is what’s good for the state of Ohio and good for the country.”
Independent redistricting commissions have been successful in reducing political corruption and bias in the fundamental democratic process of representation. While commissions have opened up the mapping process to more voices, they have not created more competitive elections. In California, independent commissions have made the redistricting process more transparent but that hasn’t translated in fairness, with Democrats winning 73% of the seats and only decreasing the number of safe seats by one. Likewise, in Virginia, state redistricting plans would create super-safe seats and less competitive districts.
Independent redistricting commissions are gaining support across the country and they play an important role in fixing our broken system. However, we need to take a multifaceted approach to ending gerrymandering. That is what the Ranked Choice Voting Act does.
The Ranked Choice Voting Act takes a three-pronged approach to end gerrymandering:
Use ranked choice voting to give voters a strong voice in their elections,
Create multi-winner districts where voters elect more than one representative for their district, and
Utilize independent commissions to create transparent and inclusive district maps.
The Ranked Choice Voting Act will level the playing field to give all voters a voice in their elections. It also increase competitiveness by opening up elections to different candidates. Kasich prides himself in being a solutions-based governor who is willing to listen to voices from the other side. This proposal also opens the door to more collaborative policymaking by breaking up single-party monopolies on representation.
We applaud Kasich’s call for redistricting reform and hope this leads to more the advancement of impactful reforms that give voters more choice, competitive elections, and accountable elected leaders.