Federal Court Makes Gerrymander Ruling That Could Change Everything

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Although the no doubt most prominent front on which Americans are preparing for the 2020 elections is via the presidential race — another dramatic development in a whole different arena has just come down the pipe. A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati has unanimously ruled against Ohio’s current Congressional district map, ordering the state to produce a new one by June 20 and forbidding them from holding any more elections according to the current lines. Although the ruling is likely to be appealed, the case against gerrymandering stands on the clear grounds of Republicans maintaining an about four-fifths majority of the state’s Congressional delegation while only garnering around half of the state’s overall vote.

The case is the work of a wide coalition of interests ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to Ohio Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who offered her account of the wake of the redistricting following the 2010 census, in which the state overall lost two seats and hers was “hacked apart,” pitting her in a primary race against another Democratic incumbent. She now leads a district some have derogatorily referred to as the “Snake by the Lake” considering it stretches thinly across the side of Lake Erie, serving the apparent effect of isolating Democratic voters to her district. She is the longest serving woman in Congress, having first joined up in the early 1980s.

A new map getting implemented in Ohio could have significant effects in the state’s electoral outcome. There was a dramatic leap in the portion of Democratic voters in at least some areas going into 2018. Across the entire state in those midterm elections, Democratic vote shares spiked by significant margins in all but two of the state’s 16 Congressional districts. In Kaptur’s and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan’s, Republicans gained ground in the single digits, but not nearly enough to offset the overwhelming Democratic majorities. In some areas, like the suburban 1st District outside Cincinnati, a Republican victory masked a spike in Democratic vote share by 14 percent — or higher. In the suburban 12th District, the spike was a full 32 percent.

The Ohio case mirrors a number of other current and recent ones across the United States. In Pennsylvania ahead of the midterm elections, the state Supreme Court implemented a new Congressional map on similar grounds, and Democrats picked up four Congressional seats, although they only net-ed three since Republicans gained a rare one.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in cases against Congressional district maps in North Carolina and Maryland alleged to inappropriately favor Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Heading into the case, the court had never actually struck down a similar map as too partisan — but there’s a first for everything.

New Congressional district maps aren’t all the Republicans have to worry about heading into 2020; they also may lose the White House. Every single poll collected by RealClearPolitics over the last few months has Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Joe Biden way out ahead of Donald Trump in a potential general election match-up. Trump just keeps hammering in the “Sleepy Joe” line and hoping it’ll help him out.

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