Thursday, January 17, 2008

Killing Urban Representation in Ohio

Being an urban geek and a regionalist I find the deliberate political fragmentation of Ohio cities particularly galling. .

Building a Rotten Borough: Drawing the OH 3

This map shows a classic case of gerrymandering. OH 3 is drawn to ensure the Dayton metro area is divided and that a mayor of Dayton could never again become a contender for the seat. The city of Dayton is divided in half, with the east and north sides being included in a mostly rural district along the Ohio/Indiana line. Thus one has the situation of Twin Towers being in OH 3, while next door St Anne’s Hill and Huffman are in another district.

The suburb of Riverside is also divided and Huber Heights is totally removed from OH 3.

OH 3 is drawn to divide up the Dayton metro area, particularly the core county of Montgomery, and is drawn around an outer suburb/exurb voter base, but also including county seat towns and rural areas in Clinton and Highland counties that have traditional economic and media ties to Cincinnati.
Ohio: Drawing Districts to Divide Cities.

The policy of excluding urban areas from effective representation extends to Cincinnati, which has a similar two-way split, and especially to Columbus, where the third largest metro area in the state has been gerrymandered into political irrelevance by splitting it and its core county between three Congressional districts. The intent is clearly to dilute and eliminate

Kentucky: Representation via Regional Districts.

Kentucky offers a stark contrast. Kentucky has divided government so one party could not dominate redistricting. The result was compromise, with districting being done on a regional basis, reflecting to some extent the traditional regional divisions of the state.

Note that redistricting did not deliberately split and carve up urban areas. Instead, the largest city in the state retained its own district, KY 3, with some shaving off of rural and suburban areas to address the declining population of the core county. The subtracted areas have a similar sociocultural characteristics to areas in the adjacent district to which they were added.

In the case of KY 6, the district is a classic example of a regional district drawn around a core city and its economic sphere of influence. This is the outer and inner Bluegrass region, centered on Lexington, but including bits of the Knobs region.

Note that this district does not divide Lexington and Fayette County, but instead divides rural counties at the outer parts of the district. The concept here is that the closer one is to Lexington and its ring of county seat town towns (the Inner Bluegrass) the more connected one is the regional economy, in terms of employment, travel, and shopping.

One could imagine some fine tuning of the Kentucky approach, particularly around Louisville (adding out-of-county suburban areas rather than subtracting in-county areas) but it appears sound at heart.

The Political Psychology of the American Rotten Borough.

The Ohio approach is particularly insidious. Refer to the previous thread where I show the differences in election results between OH 3 and KY 3. Note how, compared to KY3, OH 3 isn’t a true two party system as there is only token opposition from one party. By drawing a district to guarantee a majority to one party the turnout for the excluded party will become progressivly suppressed as citizen see voting is pointless and opt out of the process.

The excluded party eventually becomes irrelevant, fielding token candidates or no candidates at all, as the district evolves into a one-party system. Incumbents stay incumbent until they retire.

As it isn’t worth wasting the gas to drive to the polls to vote against (or even for) an incument
participation wanes (except for reliable voting blocs), and the represenative can pretty much ignore his constituents, focusing on issues of interest to the local oligarchs and national interest groups, who are his or her political funders.


Greg Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Hunter said...

Perfect. I think your analysis is spot on and the stuff is quite amazing as it appears to have been done to limit choice and based on my empirical evidence KY is doing better as a State than Ohio. I wonder if Gerrymandering allows only mediocre people to advance to the legislature from Ohio. It seems to me one can link the supposed underlying racism against the Mosque in Sugarcreek with the same mindset that Gerrymandered Ohio. Divide and Conquer. I

Anonymous said...

I understand the point about "splitting" the urban area, and so depriving it of what presumably would be a more Democratic, urban oriented representative. I also think its ridiculous for anyone to be expected to adequately represent a district as strung out as the one running along the Ohio River all of the way from Portsmouth to Youngstown---or even the 7th, which covers Springfield almost to Zanesville, going around "under" Columbus.

BUT, I wonder whether it can be shown that the Dayton metropolitan area is worse off for effectively having THREE members of Congress with a vested interest in supporting the area (putting aside whether you like them or not)---Boehner, Turner and Hobson---all have to pay some attention to the Dayton region. It may be a backward way of looking at the issue, and I know it wasn't the intention of the gerrymandering, but could it actually be of some benefit from a regional perspective??

Admin said...

If you think Ohio is bad, take a look at Texas!