Ohio Redistricting: An Introduction

In its 2011 redistricting, Ohio may lose two congressional seats, potentially more than any other state in the country. This Rose Report series will analyze the upcoming 2010 election in each of the current districts and what Ohio’s congressional districts are likely to look like after 2012.

Congressional redistricting in Ohio is done by the state legislature, with a signature required from the governor for passage. The 33-member Senate currently consists of 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Eight Republicans and nine Democrats face re-election votes this November, and. Republicans are considered certain to hold onto control of the Ohio Senate. The House has 99 members with 53 Democrats to 46 Republicans, and all 99 seats are up for re-election in 2010. Republicans would need to pick up four seats to take a majority in the House, and Republicans this year have a solid chance at picking up at least that many seats.

Governor Ted Strickland

Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is running for re-election and recent polls have him slightly trailing Republican challenger former Congressman John Kasich, the former US House Budget Chairman. Kasich’s lead grew from a virtual tie in early August to a current average lead of 7.0 points according to Real Clear Politics. Both the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association (operating under the name “Building a Stronger Ohio”) are spending millions on the race.

Ohio also has a very competitive and expensive race for United States Senate as Republican incumbent George Voinovich is retiring.  Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is running against former Republican Congressman and U.S. Trade Representative (under George W. Bush) Rob Portman.  This race is also very expensive with the candidates, both parties, and outside groups (including Karl Rove’s American Crossroads organization) spending millions.  The most recent polls have Portman leading ten points or more, with the Real Clear Politics average at Portman +18.5%.

The Ohio State Capitol Building

Ohio currently has eighteen seats in the House of Representatives. The delegation is split between ten Democrats and eight Republicans. The Democratic seats are concentrated in Eastern Ohio, primarily in the hill country and industrial Appalachia in the south and Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Canton in the north. Democrats also hold districts in two of the metropolitan areas of the state, including Cincinnati and Columbus. Republicans dominate the western half of the state, including the northwestern industrial and manufacturing counties and more urban districts just outside Columbus and Cincinnati. The Republicans also hold the 14th district in the north-east corner of the state. The Democratic districts have seen less population growth since 2000 than the Republican ones and as a result tend to be more under-populated going into the 2011 redistricting.

After the 2000 census, Ohio lost one congressional seat. Republicans were forced to compromise with Democrats to pass a redistricting plan because they finished the new map so close to filing deadline of February 21, 2002. They managed to keep all eleven Republican seats largely the same and also preserved two Cleveland area Democrats. Every other Democrat, however, received a significantly revised district. Tom Sawyer’s 14th district was split apart entirely, with much of its population going to the 13th. Sawyer’s home, however, was put into the 17th, which was then held by Democrat Jim Traficant. Traficant was then facing bribery charges (he has since been convicted and served time in prison). Both Traficant and Sawyer lost the Democratic primary to former Traficant aide Tim Ryan. The 3rd district was also made much more conservative in 2001, but then-incumbent Tony Hall was considered strong enough to continue winning his seat. In 2002, however, Hall retired and a Republican won the 3rd, giving the GOP a 12-6 advantage. By 2008, however, Democrats had gained a 10-8 majority after winning several swing districts in the Democratic wave elections of 2006 and 2008.

The most recent population estimates released by the American Community Survey (ACS) place Ohio’s population at 11,542,645 as of 2009. While Ohio currently has eighteen congressional seats, most current estimates are that it will lose one or two seats. The following analysis assumes Ohio loses two seats, retaining a total of sixteen. This means that the ideal population level for each district will be 721,415. This is larger than the current population of every district in the state but one.

Each of the five seats currently with the smallest population are held by Democrats who will likely win their elections in 2010. This means that regardless of who controls redistricting, these Democratic seats are going to see a lot of change. On the other end of the spectrum, four of the five seats with the largest population are held by Republicans and the fifth is the 15th district, which Republicans have a good chance of winning in 2010. These seats will still need residents to be added to meet the ideal population level but in far smaller amounts than the Democratic ones. Which seats specifically are eliminated, combined and/or significantly changed is dependent on who holds control of the state legislature and the Governor’s office and thereby the redistricting process. Currently, it seems likely that a bi-partisan redistricting or a Republican redistricting will occur. In a bi-partisan process, one district will likely be eliminated on each side of the political spectrum. In the case of a Republican controlled redistricting, both eliminated districts are likely to be Democratic. Which specific districts are most at risk will be analyzed in greater detail over the rest of this series.

Over the next week, this series will analyze each district’s geography, demographics, 2010 election outlook, and 2012 redistricting possibilities. Tomorrow’s post will look at several of the westernmost districts in the state: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 8th.

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Ohio welcome sign photo courtesy of llemanie, and photo of Governor Strickland from the Office of the Governor’s website.

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