Redistricting maps released by Colorado and Ohio this week illustrate the stark contrast in the states’ methods, according to the Redistricting Report Card from Princeton Gerrymandering Project and RepresentUs. The Report Card gave Colorado’s congressional map an A, while Ohio’s Statehouse and Senate maps got an F and B, respectively.
This is the first redistricting cycle under the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, which was created by the passage of two voter-initiated amendments in 2018. In June, the Commission released a draft congressional map using American Community Survey (ACS) data to elicit public feedback. They then re-issued the draft map on September 3, incorporating both updated Census data and public feedback, and then further refined the map on September 15. All of the commission’s proposed maps to date have earned A grades, meaning they give no explicit electoral advantage to either party. A final map will be proposed next week ahead of the Commission's September 28 deadline to approve a final plan.
In contrast, Ohio released draft maps on September 9 for its statehouse and state senate maps, only six days prior to the commission’s statutory deadline for passage. Ohio’s Statehouse map received an overall score of F because it gives significant advantage to Republicans. Maps were only marginally revised before their adoption on Wednesday night, resulting in another F map without bipartisan support that will only be adopted for four years.
“The vast majority of Americans despise gerrymandering, and want the map-drawing process to be free from partisan influence. Clearly, Colorado passed that test and Ohio didn’t,” said RepresentUs CEO Josh Silver. “Maps are starting to come out at a rapid pace, and we know that 35 states are at high or extreme risk of partisan gerrymandering. This is exactly what the Freedom to Vote Act seeks to fix. If passed, partisan gerrymandering would be illegal in all 50 states.”
The Redistricting Report Card utilizes a unique algorithm that generates 1 million districting plans for each state. The tool compares maps against the full range of possibilities -- both good and bad -- and issues grades based on criteria including partisan fairness, competitiveness, and geographic features. A grade of “C” is considered average.
Below is a summary of the findings for the Colorado and Ohio maps, along with in-depth analysis. You can find more details on the Redistricting Report Card website, and information about the scoring process here.
Partisan Fairness: A / No advantage to either party
Geographic Features: C
Summary: Maps fall within the fair range for partisan fairness metrics and are not outliers when compared to a million simulated Colorado congressional maps that also follow state criteria and federal requirements.
- The commission’s responsiveness to public comment allowed it to experiment with various formats of large district splits. One striking difference between the first draft map and the more recent drafts is a large southern district added in the latter draft maps versus the east / west divide between their largest district in the earlier map. This was a prevalent trend in comments received by the Commission. Heavier Hispanic populations in the southern region and Native American populations in the southwest corner of the state appear to stay congruent in both versions of the map.
- The September 3 map was criticized by the public for placing Boulder and Fort Collins into separate districts. The September 15 map changes this, placing the two cities into the same district and making District 4 more consistently rural.
- The September 3 map had one more competitive district overall. Notably, it drew the northwest corner of the state into a significantly more Democratic district than the previous draft, which kept the region in a district that would likely lean Republican. However, our analysis shows that more competitive districts could have been drawn, even though the draft includes more competitive districts than in the previous court-accepted map. That’s why a C grade was issued, which is considered average. This additional competitive district was removed in the September 15 draft.
- District 8 takes in the north Denver suburbs, running to include rural and university areas. It also appears responsive to some public comments identifying a Latino community of interest. Although District 8 has an HVAP (Hispanic Voting Age Population) of 34 percent, our analysis suggests that this district is likely insufficient as an opportunity district, as normally HVAP population percentages must be higher to assure that Latino populations have sufficient presence in the electorate to create an opportunity to elect.
- District 2 (northern district) and District 4 (large eastern district) combine heavily metropolitan areas with heavily rural areas. This is merely an interesting observation and not necessarily indicative of a negative geographic feature. However, there are multiple county splits. Although the latest map produces very few city splits, our score of geographic features prominently considers county splits.
- The Colorado Constitution requires that maps be drawn to create as many competitive districts as possible, but only after complying with other criteria regarding equal population, the Voting Rights Act, and respect for political subdivisions. Thus, while the map could have created more competitive districts, the staff may have chosen to prioritize other criteria over competitiveness.
Overall Grade: F
Partisan Fairness: F / Advantage to Republicans
Geographic Features: C
Summary: The map falls below the fair range for partisan fairness when compared to a million simulated Ohio House maps that do achieve fairness metrics.
- The Ohio Senate map scores higher because each Senate district is an aggregation of three house districts that appear to have been fine-tuned to produce a partisan advantage in the house maps. That effect is diluted when these districts are put together into one larger district.
- According to a statement from Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, race was not a consideration in drawing the proposed maps. However, among the only changes between the draft maps and those that were eventually adopted were the shoring up of several minority opportunity-to-elect districts, creating the same number of such districts as in last decade’s maps. This may suggest that mapdrawers were attempting to shield their maps from a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.
- The Ohio Constitution requires that redistricting maps reflect the overall partisanship of the state. The proposed house map, by the calculations of our scoring tool, does not achieve this.
- Ohio passed a series of reforms designed to encourage bipartisan cooperation in the line-drawing process. Nonetheless, as these maps passed on party-lines, the best possible outcome -- a map that was fair to both parties and would be passed by a strong bipartisan majority -- did not occur and Ohio will face another map drawing process in four years.