Saturday, October 01, 2005

 

Carved to pieces: how Franklin & Hamilton counties gets screwed in the re-districting game.

To recap, the current rules allow Ohio politicians to draw congressional districts (and other legislative boundaries) in Ohio in a self-serving three-step process:

1) Decide how many seats to “forfeit” to the minority party
2) Cram as many voters for the minority party as possible into the forfeited districts
3) Dilute or “crack” the remaining minority votes in the remaining districts

Supporters of the current system have oddly complained that this explanation, as outlined in a previous post, is wrong because we failed to mention that the population of all districts has to be more or less the same.

Our response: They’re right, but so what? Calculating what 1/18th of the population is hardly a political mind-bender. But, for the purists, cretins and Republican in-breds in the audience we hereby acknowledge that steps 1-3 must be accomplished while maintaining equal populations in the district.

And for the record, that number is about 630,000 per district based on the 2000 census.

We mention that number as an appropriate segue into the real point of this post: Franklin County, Hamilton County other metropolitan areas are the victims of Republican redistricting butchery that rob these regions and their populations – particularly African Americans – of the political power they deserve.

In our post about the outrages of redistricting in Ohio as a whole, we said that it’s impossible to get the real picture unless you take a step back and see the big picture. But, with counties, it helps to focus on more micro issues.

The appropriate place to start is with the size of Franklin County. In 2000, it had a population of 1.09 million residents. Using the above-mentioned yardstick of 630,000 per district Franklin County, by itself, is the equivalent of one entire congressional district and three-quarters of another.

FranklinCo_CD_map

Yet, Franklin County doesn’t even have one CD to call its own. As the map above shows, the Republican long knives neatly carved the county into three jigsaw pieces that are each annexed to groupings of outlying counties dominated by suburban and rural interests. And, its pretty clear that in most cases, the surrounding counties are kept whole.

The same scam if foisted upon Hamilton County. With a population of 814,611 in 2000, it had more enough citizens to qualify it for a CD.

HamiltonCo_CD_map

Instead we find that it, too, is filleted like a Lake Erie perch, lumping roughly half of the county into the 1st CD and half into the 2nd CD, effectively emasculating the county, and, like in Franklin County, making it a slave to the suburbs and exurbs.

The issue of African American voters in these counties is an important one – one that strikes fear into the Republican Party and one that certainly is behind the absurd district lines drawn in these counties.

In both cases, there is a potential of about 145,000 black voters. Obviously, we’re not talking about a monolithic group, but from a politicians point of view they would represent (for a change) a huge bloc whose interests could not be ignored.

But as things stand now, Ohio’s current redistricting system allows the largest and the third-largest counties to be robbed of the voice in Congress they deserve.

We challenge any Kevin DeWine wannabees to defend this situation.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

 

On a totally different subject . . .

Haven't seen too much of this on the Ohio blogs, so we thought we go on record as thinking the Bob Dylan piece on PBS Monday and Tuesday was great (seriously). We found it thought provoking and moving, despite the fact that the majority of reviews seem to dislike it.

We'd seen tapes plenty of times before of the Newport F. F. set and the booing, but we had never seen anything that showed the relentlessness and intensity of the press conferences in the 1965-66 era. Sheesh - no wonder the guy felt trapped.

Besides Dylan, Joan Baez came off as remarkably human. And, it was a brilliant piece of casting to have Tim Robbins play Al Kooper. Along with Liam Clancy, Kooper stood out as one of the characters who seemed to really enjoy his memories of that period and had a strong sense of humor about his life in the music business.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Just when Bob Ney thought his butt couldn't clinch any tighter . . .

. . . stuff like this and this are made public, and then you see stuff like this happen to your buddies.

BTW, Bob, have you made that appointment with the prosecutor yet?

We posted on this before, but for the context to this, see Ellen Miller's piece at TPM Cafe

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

RON causes fractures to emerge on the right [Updated]

When the Ohio Taxypayers Association endorses Issues 2, 3 [fixed] 4 and 5, you just gotta know RON has hit a raw nerve among conservative and moderate Republicans.

[Updated] We thought this was already pretty well know, but it should be noted that OTA isn't the first grouping on the right to seriously consider some of the RON proposals. Other conservative bloggers have not given the knee-jerk response that some might have expected. Check out this post and string of comments, for example, and also Michael Meckler's ruminations on the topic.

Our original point of this post is that the OTA has something of a following among mainstream conservatives and for that reason the endorsement takes on more significance.

Monday, September 26, 2005

 

Democracy, competition and Issue 4 [Updated]

[Update - If you take the time (thank you) to read the post below, also go over to Kos and read this.]

Issue 4 is arguably the most important of the battery of four amendments that comprise the Reform Ohio Now initiative. Issue 4 is the one that would eliminate Ohio's current system of party-controlled gerrymandering and replace it with an independent commission that would prioritize the need for competitiveness and commonalities of interest in drawing legislative districts.

A lot of general comments have been made about the need for Issue 4, but we have been spending a few days looking at the numbers from the 2004 for election to see what they can tell us about the problems of the current system.

The first thing we gathered from the numbers from the Secretary of State's office is that outcome of Ohio's legislative races has little to do with the total votes cast.

What do we mean?

Take Ohio's 18 congressional races. We wanted to look at the numbers in a way that the Republican Party and their Ohio First minions don't want the public to think about them. For years, they (and, honestly, the Democrats before them) have wanted the discussions about the races to be considered only at a district-by-district level. And no wonder!

Let's take a step back for a moment and look at the overall voting pattern in these congressional races. The total votes cast statewide for each party's congresssional candidates were remarkably close. Republicans congressional candidates received 2.65 million votes and the Democrats 2.51 million. That's only a 2-3% difference. (This closely mirrored the votes cast in Ohio in the presidential race: 2.86 million versus 2.74 million, also a 2% difference.)

We repeat, the difference in total votes cast for Republican and Democratic candidates was a little over 2%.

Yet, despite the closeness of the total votes, the real outcome - when the votes are allocated to their gerrymandered districts - came nowhere near to reflecting this close vote. Regardless of the 2% difference, Republicans took 12 seats leaving only 6 for the Democrats.

Now, Republicans could have easily argued that a 10-8 division of these seats was fair, and they may have even been able to press their luck with an argument for a 11-7 split. But even reasonable people from both parties can see that a 12-6 split treats democracy as a joke.

The fact that a 2% difference in votes can get translated into a 33% difference in seats shows the utter power of gerrymandering to pack meaningless votes into the minority party's districts.

Further, gerrymandering has the utter power to destroy competition.

We'll soon come back to this subject of competition, but first we need to give it some context. Typically, an incumbent is considered to be vulnerable when his or her previous opponents have come within 5, maybe 10 percentage points. Much above that and we are into "sacrificial lambs" territory. (Of course, this isn't an absolute. As the Paul Hackett-Jean Schmidt race showed, when the right candidate runs during a period when public opinion is in flux, even a 40%+ margin can be overcome).

But, if as political strategists, we start looking for those races where we can try to create a 5 or 10 point shift, home many "competitive" races do we find?

Take a look at the 2004 winning margins in Ohio's congressional races, arranged from smallest margin to largest:

Picture 1

As is readily apparent, no race suggests it will be competitive in 2006 given that the smallest margin is 17%, and that the average margin is an astounding 39%.

Similar searches for competitive races in the Ohio General Assembly's house and senate contests have equally dismal results.

In fact, out of the 133 legislative races in Ohio in 2004 (18 congress, 99 Ohio house, 16 Ohio senate), only 5 were decided by a margin of 5% or less, and only 15 by 10% or less. The average margin of victory in all of the races was 42%!

At the other end of the spectrum in 26 races - one out of five - the incumbent didn't even face an opponent.

The point of all this is that Issue 4 is needed because gerrymandering, ipso facto, has sucked every last bit of competition from Ohio's legislative races. The days of playing the "what-if" barroom games of plotting the Democrat's return to power by shifting a few percentage points in this race or that race are over.

Completely over.

Issue 4 is our only hope.

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