Imagine a congressional district shaped like a barbell, with the top “weight” covering most of Cleveland, and the bottom one covering Akron’s black neighborhoods. Connecting the two would be a thin strip of land wandering down the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.
Sounds like gerrymandering at its finest. The GOP does have complete control over redistricting this year. Is this a nefarious plot to disenfranchise black voters? No. It may be necessary to draw such a contorted shape in order to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and ensure that Marcia Fudge’s 11th district remains a minority district.
Census figures for Ohio, which will be released this week, are expected to show that Rep. Marcia Fudge’s present district — which includes all of Cleveland’s East Side, some of the West Side and many of Cuyahoga County’s eastern suburbs — will have to expand by 125,000 to 190,000 residents.
Although that may change when census figures are available, Batchelder said the only way to maintain a minority district probably would require expanding Fudge’s current territory south, through the sparsely populated Cuyahoga Valley, and into Akron’s predominantly black neighborhoods. Batchelder offered those details to a Feb. 17 gathering of black political, civic and religious leaders in Cleveland.
“We have an obligation to create a district that includes upwards of 60 percent minorities,” Batchelder said last week. “We can’t do that in Cuyahoga County, I don’t think.”
If the new Fudge district really did encompass “most of Cleveland”, that would be half of the current 10th district, currently held by part-time Wiggle Dennis Kucinich. It’s becoming more and more indicative that Dennis and Betty Sutton of the 13th may be facing each other in a primary next year.
Redistricting will certainly be interesting this time. Since Ohio is losing 2 seats, it would be tempting to carve 2 Democrats out of the picture. However, having just had a terrific November and enjoying a 13-5 advantage in the state delegation, it would probably make more sense not to spread your base too thin. If we can sacrifice one of our seats to shore up some of our recent gains, maintaining a 12-4 or 11-5 advantage would certainly be appealing.