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We All Count: Supreme Court Rules on Redistricting

Some voting-rights advocates say challenges to redistricting rules interfere with fair districts and fair elections. (Pixabay)
Some voting-rights advocates say challenges to redistricting rules interfere with fair districts and fair elections. (Pixabay)
April 5, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to those fighting to ensure elections are fair.

The court unanimously ruled states can draw voting districts based on counting an area's total population, not just the number of people of voting age.

Catherine Turcer, policy analyst with voting-rights group Common Cause Ohio, explains the ruling doesn't change things in Ohio, which already does total population redistricting at the State Legislature.

But she says it's an important decision nonetheless.

"The playing around with voting rules and redistricting rules gets in the way of fair districts and fair elections," says Turcer. "And so, this decision makes it really clear that we all count, not just 'every voter counts.'"

Turcer says total population includes children, immigrants and those who are disenfranchised, so this ruling ensures the decisions made at the polls represent everyone in a community.

The cities of Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo all joined in an amicus brief in the case opposing changes to voting age population districts.

Redistricting traditionally occurs behind closed doors, Turcer says. It only happens every 10 years and often affects election results and the policies that are made.

But she notes reform efforts in Ohio have been successful with the establishment in 2015 of the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission.

"There's a prohibition on gerrymandering, there's a focus on keeping communities together and there's clear rules on creating a more transparent system," she says. "So it ends that, you know, 'doing everything in the backroom.'"

The next redistricting process in Ohio takes place in 2021.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH