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Washington Gridlock Rooted In Gerrymandering

Dayton Daily News

The way states draw congressional districts may be a contributing factor to the dysfunction of today's political climate, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News published earlier this week. While gerrymandering is nothing new, it's now much easier. Technology allows political parties to find out how a person votes and where they live, adding new precision to dividing districts in a way that benefits one party over another. WYSO's Emily McCord spoke with Dayton Daily News reporter Ken McCall, who examined the demographics of Ohio's 16 congressional districts.

McCall found huge disparities between Republican-dominated districts and Democratic ones. He reports that Democratic districts were generally the poorest, had the greatest number of minorities, and had the highest unemployment rates and vacancy rates.

All of this leads to two issues. The first, he says, is fairness—the current system doesn't represent the electorate accurately. In Ohio in 2012, voters elected President Obama 51% over challenger Mitt Romney at 47%. But in congressional races, Republicans won 75% of the districts.

"The fairness issue has been around a long time. I think everyone says, well, that's just politics in Ohio," says McCall. "But it's the dysfunction issue and the problems in Congress that I believe are causing people to say 'hey, wait, we gotta do something about this".

That's the second issue: dysfunction and gridlock in Congress. McCall says the dysfunction occurs because districts are uncompetitive, so candidates only have to be concerned with a primary challenger, causing them to move towards the fringes of their party rather than finding middle ground. 

Currently, two Republicans are heading off an effort to change the redistricting process by creating a bipartisan board to approve congressional lines. Any change to the current system would have to be approved by Ohio voters, the General Assembly, and the Ohio Modernization Committee.

The newspaper also offers interactive maps and more detailed analysis about Ohio's demographics and Congressional districts.