A newly released report by Dr. David Niven, commission by the League of Woman Voters of Ohio (LWVO), titled “Ohio’s Sixth Congressional District: A District of Strangers,” is yet another data point. Another reminder of just how gerrymandered Ohio is. But this report is different in the way it illustrates how electoral districts can be culturally gerrymandered. To the naked eye, Ohio’s 6th congressional district may seem like a reasonable shape; snaking along the Ohio River encapsulating many of Ohio’s Appalachian region counties. However, as the report accounts, there are several, eye-popping, examples of how the 6th Congressional District is a Frankenstein – suturing different parts of the state together in a haphazard way.  

The report details just how different parts of the 6th district are from others. Spanning over 200 miles from end to end, the district encapsulates no less than four different economic regions designated by the Ohio Department of Development, the district splits in half communities of color in the city of Massillon in Stark County, it breaks apart small-town Ohio school districts, and even mashes three different baseball fan bases together. After reading the League of Woman Voters’ report, I think it’s fair to say that the Ohio Riverbed is the only thing these counties have in common. The fact of the matter is the Appalachian region of Ohio has repeatedly been ignored by our congressional representation for far too long, and one can’t help but wonder if the competing interests and different community cultures of the district have led to this lack of meaningful representation.  

Now here’s what really gets my blood boiling – the 6th Congressional District is not unique. Even a casual observer can look at Ohio’s 5th, 7th, 8th, and 15th districts, and you’ll notice the same thing.  

Ohio’s 5th congressional district spans from as far east as Avon Lake, the Cleveland suburb along Lake Erie, all the way to the Indiana border. The district falls into the Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Fort Wayne (Ind.) media markets. It’s a three-hour car ride from one end to the other and pits the economic and regulatory interests of its inhabitants against each other. The western border is dominated by agricultural interests that actively lobbies against regulations of fertilizer and waste runoff mitigation. Contrast that with the economic interests of the most populous county of the district – Lorain. Lorain County boasts twenty-three miles of Lake Erie shoreline, including twenty marinas and boat clubs. Algae blooms caused by agricultural runoff are a major concern for the viability of Lake Erie tourism and recreation – a major economic driver for Lorain County. These diametrically opposed economic interests make it nearly impossible for a congressional representative to advocate for their constituents. 

The unfortunate reality is that Ohio is still one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation, and it’s clear the politicians in Columbus want to keep it that way. When you look at it from a career politician’s perspective – why would you want to end gerrymandering? Gerrymandering allows politicians to stay in office for however long they want. When politicians get to pick their voters, instead of the other way around, they lose sight of why they were elected in the first place – to faithfully represent the interests of their constituents, but when career politicians are able to skirt by without any accountability, they have no incentive to listen to us – the citizens of Ohio. 

That is why Ohio must pass the Citizens Not Politicians amendment this November. The Citizens Not Politicians amendment would: 

  • Create the 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of Democratic, Republican, and Independent citizens who broadly represent the different geographic areas and demographics of the state.  
  • Ban current or former politicians, political party officials and lobbyists from sitting on the Commission. 
  • Require fair and impartial districts by making it unconstitutional to draw voting districts that discriminate against or favor any political party or individual politician. 
  • Require the commission to operate under an open and independent process.

Only when career politicians and their lobbyists buddies are removed from the process, will Ohioans finally earn the fair and faithful representation that we deserve, and this is not a partisan issue. The Citizens Not Politicians amendment has broad support from Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, because this amendment safeguards our right to representative government for the people and by the people. The ACLU of Ohio is a leading member of this campaign and redistricting reform is a top priority for our organization as we head into the 2024 election.