Democrats Doomed Under Ohio Redistricting: Ballots & Boundaries

Republican leaders had billed Ohio’s new congressional map as competitive. Gov. Mike DeWine even put a number on it, saying the boundaries would create competitive races in seven of the 15 districts.

The reality could be far different.

Democrats should expect an easy time in just two seats, in Cleveland and Columbus, according to an analysis of votes from the 2020 presidential election.

“As effective as Republicans were in 2011 with a 10-year map, my fear is that they’re even more effective now,” former Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper said in an interview. “They’re squelching the Democratic growth they’re seeing, especially in taking a battle ax to Hamilton, Franklin and Summit counties.”

Wright State University political science professor Lee Hannah said his research found that 82 of the states’ counties had a lower vote share for Joe Biden than for Barack Obama, showing a movement away from Democrats in all but a few large counties. Where the Democrats have momentum, in all but one of those counties the population has been cut up or dispersed in the redrawn congressional map, which is being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Source: Ohio House of Representatives

The complaint alleges that the map violated the state constitution’s rules against unduly favoring a political party and the unnecessary splitting of counties.

Republican consultant Mike Hartley, president of Columbus-based Swing State Strategies, said the traditional midterm decline for the party in the White House plus a general Ohio trend toward the GOP was already working against the Democrats. “Compound this map with a massive wave that’s coming next year and I would be shocked if it’s not a 13-2 map.” he said in an interview.

In the 2012 presidential election only eight of Ohio’s 88 counties had 40-point margins for one party (which Hannah terms a “blowout county”), and 26 of the state’s counties were within a 10-point margin (which Hannah calls a “competitive county”). In 2020 that skyrocked to 50 “blowout” counties. Six “competitive counties” remained. — Alex Ebert

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PENNSYLVANIA, OHIO, TEXAS: FRAUD CHASING
First they said they wouldn’t. Then Pennsylvania Senate Republicans did it anyway. They hired a firm to probe the November 2020 general election, despite pending legal challenges to their demands for voters’ personal information.

Iowa-based Envoy Sage can protect that kind of data, with its experience handling sensitive information for government agencies such as the Department of Defense, said state Sen. Cris Dush (R). Senate Democratic Caucus Leader Jay Costa criticized the hiring as a “bad faith action” and a misuse of Senate Republican Caucus funds.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that he has approved $4 million for the secretary of state’s office to create an “election audit division. The FBI confirmed that it’s looking into an incident in Lake County, Ohio. A spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) said that office’s investigators believe a government official may have facilitated an attempted breach of the election network. — Jennifer Kay, Houston Public Media, Washington Post

GEORGIA: ON TO THE GOVERNOR
Georgia lawmakers completed action on a new congressional map that was drawn to swing the suburban Atlanta district of Rep. Lucy McBath toward Republicans.

So McBath said she’ll run in the neighboring 7th District, which the Republican-majority legislature drew to be a safer seat for Democrats. That’s going to set up an incumbent-versus-incumbent primary with freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux. About 57% of the new district’s residents now are represented by Bourdeaux, and about 12% are McBath’s current constituents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

The net result could be a greater Republican lean in a swing-state delegation that currently has eight Republicans and six Democrats. The map is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Brian Kemp (R). — Chris Marr

OKLAHOMA, MASSACHUSETTS: IT’S THE LAW

First-term Rep. Stephanie Bice (R) should find her re-election prospects brighter under the new district lines signed into law in Oklahoma.

The new congressional boundaries create five strongly Republican districts in one of the nation’s most overwhelmingly Republican states.

Source: Oklahoma Legislature

Also signed into law yesterday: the congressional redistricting plan for Massachusetts, which should allow Democrats to dominate the delegation for yet another decade.

Source: Massachusetts Legislature

Biden would have carried all nine districts in 2020 with no less than 58% of the vote.

Democrats have won every House election in Massachusetts dating to 1996, when two Republicans lost their seats. — Greg Giroux

VIRGINIA: EXPERT PICKS
The Virginia Supreme Court chose a RealClearPolitics analyst and a political science professor to help redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district maps.

The court turned to Sean P. Trende, a senior elections analyst for the political website, and Bernard N. Grofman of the University of California, Irvine, after the state’s redistricting commission got bogged down along partisan lines. They are to work together and have until Christmas to come up with new lines. Richmond Times-Dispatch

OREGON: COURT RULING COMING
A five-judge panel is to issue a decision later today on whether to adopt a special master’s finding that a lawsuit challenging Oregon’s congressional map failed to sufficiently allege violations.

Democrats dominate the legislature, which drew the lines, and Republicans are suing. The Oregon Farm Bureau, which backs the lawsuit, argued the enacted map “ensures that rural votes will be outnumbered by urban votes by putting them into districts with Portland voters, who traditionally support Democratic candidates.”

After today’s action, there’s a Nov. 29 deadline to appeal the panel’s ruling. — Joyce E. Cutler

OREGON: BACK TO THE BALLOT
Activists longing for an independent commission to handle redistricting say they’ll try again to get an initiative on the ballot in Oregon.

Last time around, advocates found it was just too tough to gather signatures during a pandemic lockdown. The U.S. Supreme Court in August 2020 said no to getting on the ballot with fewer signatures than normally required. — Joyce Cutler

MINNESOTA: NEW DEADLINES
A panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court has established deadlines for completing congressional redistricting.

The order requires submissions by legislative Democrats and Republicans by Dec. 7, and sets a Feb. 15 deadline for a plan to be signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz (D).

The panel directed lawmakers to draw maps that aren’t designed to favor any candidate or political party. They also have to be compact and contiguous, must preserve communities of interest, and shouldn’t divide the state’s reservation lands “more than necessary to meet constitutional requirements.” — Stephen Joyce

Tally: 18 States Done

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To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com; Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.com; Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Jennifer Kay in Miami at jkay@bloomberglaw.com; Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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