A woman places her vote into the ballot box on March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green, Ky.
Photo by Austin Anthony/Daily News/AP

The good news and bad news on gerrymandering

For those concerned about gerrymandering and its effects on our democracy, the 2018 elections offered some good news and some bad news.

The good news is, a lot of voters appear to be sick of it. Michigan voters, for example, approved sweeping election changes, including the creation of an independent redistricting commission that will be responsible for drawing congressional district lines.

In Colorado and Missouri, voters agreed to overhaul the redistricting process to end gerrymandering. (Utah may have done the same thing, but votes on the state’s Proposition 4 are still being tallied.)

The bad news is, gerrymandered districts still exist across much of the country. Cleveland.com reported yesterday:

[Republicans in Ohio’s state legislature] scored their wins for 63 percent of the seats while collecting just over 50 percent of the total vote.

This is a lot like what happened in Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, where Republicans won 75 percent of the seats with just 52 percent of the overall vote.

These are two fresh examples of how skillfully gerrymandered legislative districts can sway the balance of power – especially when one party is in full control of drawing the maps as was the case for the current districts.

Regular readers may recall that Ohio policymakers approved some modest reforms to the redistricting process in May, but those changes won’t be implemented until after the 2020 Census.

Of course, the Buckeye State isn’t the only one where gerrymandering was an issue. Mother Jones’ Ari Berman reported yesterday that in Wisconsin, Democratic candidates managed to win a majority of the state Assembly votes, but thanks to the lines drawn by Republicans, it’s the GOP that will hold a majority of the seats.

The Washington Post also reported this week, “Majorities of voters in at least three battleground states – Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina – chose a Democrat to represent them in the state’s House of Representatives. Yet in all three states, Republicans maintained majority control over the chamber despite winning only a minority of votes.”

A separate Washington Post  piece highlighted a similar imbalance in North Carolina at the congressional level.

These fights, however, are far from over. Not only are more and more Americans souring on gerrymandered maps, but reform advocates are turning to the judiciary with renewed optimism about court-imposed changes. There’s a new lawsuit in North Carolina, for example, that appears likely to reach the state Supreme Court, and as a Slate  piece explained this week, “The case could give Democrats a real shot at retaking the legislature in 2020, or at least contesting it on an even playing field.”