More Corruption: How Ohio Republicans Will Redistrict the State to Empower Themselves and Save the GOP Millions

 Every ten years, lawmakers must redraw electoral maps to be sure that districts reflect demographic changes.  But rather than make sure that votes are counted and voices are heard, the reality behind redistricting is that it has become a way for politicians to pick and choose their votes. And like all good political corruption, there is a money trail (Surprise: the Koch Brothers are connected, at least in Minnesota). Well, the time has come for redrawing maps, and the scheming is not in short supply. In Pennsylvania, for example, Mother Jones reported that the GOP was working to redistrict the democratic state in such a way that would pull votes from Obama. 

ProPublica has been documenting the corruption behind redistricting, and reports that recently released e-mails from Ohio show just how this kind of politicking works:  Legislators in the state  drew up new maps that favor Republicans in 12 of Ohio's congressional districts, strengthening the majority of likely Republican supporters in at least 17 house districts.

The map also splits voters in Toledo into three districts, making the city what the mayor called "politically irrelevant."  It also conveniently groups two Democratic congresspeople living 110 miles apart into the same district, a move called "hijacking." 

Pro Publica explains:

Redistricting is supposed to benefit voters by equalizing districts as the nation's population shifts. But with few strict requirements for how to shape districts–they must have roughly equal populations and not discriminate against minority voters– political parties often can draw political lines largely to their own benefit.

Much of the time, the toughest balancing act in the map-drawing process is how to please multiple incumbents at once.

In the e-mails obtained by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, these kinds of partisan concerns are central. In one e-mail, the president of the state senate, Republican Thomas Niehaus, noted that "I am still committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports," even though, as a spokesman said in November, Boehnner “has no official role in the redistricting process.”

According to ProPublica, campaign contributions also affect mapping changes:

In an e-mail to Ray DiRossi, one of the two staffers responsible for drawing the state’s maps, a Republican state senator said she knew that another Republican state legislator was “looking for Republicans” in her county and suggested a list of more than 80 streets in ten neighborhoods where she had received a “good response.”

In September, as the redistricting maps were being approved, the chief of staff of the Republican state house speaker sent DiRossi a list of 43 of the state's legislative districts, ranked according to the total amount of so-called in-kind contributions made to House races in each district.

According to the Federal Election Commission, "The donation of office machines, furniture, supplies–anything of value–is an in-kind contribution… A donation of services is also considered an in-kind contribution. "

In nine of the districts, in-kind donations totaled more than $2 million over the past decade.

The rankings appeared to be a measure of which districts had been most competitive over the past ten years, since many of the districts that received the most in-kind contributions had alternated between Republican and Democratic control

Read more about the redistricting problem at ProPublica.  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at December 13, 2011, 9:42am

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