Ohio’s Legislature doesn’t look like Ohio. And, in some cases, lawmakers aren’t doing what Ohioans would want them to do. And citizens have little chance to change it. That’s because the problem stems, in part, from the state’s broken system of drawing legislative district lines, in which Ohio’s majority party creates districts it can win. For example, in the 2012 election, a slight majority of votes cast in state House of Representative races went to Democrats. But after redistricting, those votes translated into a supermajority for Republicans in the Ohio House, with 60 seats to Democrats’ 39. Last year, the leaders among those 60 Republicans refused to take up bills to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act or to institute a tax on fossil fuels released through fracking, even though public polling showed a majority of Ohioans supported both measures.
Republicans have said they’re delivering exactly what Ohioans want, such as tax cuts and more money for schools.
Ohio’s situation is hardly unique: In all but seven states, redistricting efforts are by nature political, with party officials penciling in boundaries for state legislative districts. In at least 38 of those states, including Ohio, legislators are even allowed to draw their own districts by serving on redistricting panels.
Even amid the nationwide dysfunction, Ohio is in a dubious class: It’s in the top 10 among most-polarized state legislatures, according to research by professors at the University of Chicago and Princeton University.