Review of “Gerrymandering in Ohio’s 9th District”

Reviewed by Associate Editor Peter Rutkowski

Gerrymandering has long been utilized as an unfair strategy in order for one political party to gain control of a district within a defined region, often creating divisions between people of varying socioeconomic classes or races. Kimberly Hill, in her paper Gerrymandering in Ohio’s 9th District: Ideological Effects, explores this very concept.

Hill begins by discussing how the Republican Party strategically was able to redraw voting lines as a part of the REDMAP project, thus winning state legislatures before the 2012 federal elections. In her paper, however, Hill chooses to look beyond just the causes of gerrymandering; she determines that it’s important to analyze the effects of gerrymandering upon representative ideology. Her literature review discusses the ways in which redistricting affects policy outcomes. It is noted that most of the literature argues that there are “perverse” effects to redistricting and certainly to gerrymandering; however, Hill is careful to point out that some authors argue that majority-minority divisions have even led to more substantive representation for minority voters.

Of course, in this paper’s title is a specific district. Indeed, the author utilizes the Ninth District of Ohio, a district that has been redrawn and modified so much that it is nicknamed the “Snake on a Lake,” to analyze representative ideological shifts. Also, Hill mentions that she chose this specific district because its representative Marcy Kaptur (D) has won incumbency since 1983. And since then, three separate redistricting processes have occurred — in 1990, 2000, and 2010. Using the theories discussed in her literature review, Hill hypothesizes that Kaptur would become more ideologically liberal as her district became increasingly urban or populated with a higher concentration of minorities.

In order to test her theory, the researcher takes a data-driven approach to analyze Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s voting patterns. She uses a table and multiple graphs that summarize the composition of the district in terms of race (black and hispanic are tabled and graphed), medium income, and median age in four-year increments from 1893 to 2017. With this data, Hill discusses potential and theorized voting outcomes that could arise based on the data.

Next, Hill looks at another quantitative factor named the DW NOMINATE score. This measurement analyzes the level of ideological liberalism or conservatism that a representative represents with their voting patterns. Using data plotted on another graph, it’s clear that Representative Kaptur went from voting slightly liberally to more liberally over each election cycle — this could mirror her district’s composition, potentially representing an effect on the ideology of her constituents on her own voting patterns. At the same time, data from the NAACP Rating, the Federation for American Immigration Reform Ratings, the NARAL Pro-Choice America Ratings, the NRA Ratings, and the League of Conservation all suggest either that there was no observable shift in Kaptur’s voting patterns or that Kaptur became more ideologically liberal just on certain issues over time. At the same time, Hill acknowledges that it’s difficult to tell whether or not Kaptur was shifting her voting (at least difficult to determine without speaking to Rep. Hill in person) as a result of a change of her own ideology or as the result of her adjusting in order to secure her incumbency in voting cycles.

In her conclusion, author Kimberly Hill discusses the importance of continuing to research her ideas and theories, perhaps looking at other districts, particularly those where cases of gerrymandering have been investigated. Certainly, she argues, there is a correlation between voting patterns and the ideological makeup of a constituency — its effects on representative ideology just still have yet to be explored more deeply.

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