Gerrymandering is a climate issue

Author Sarah Wesseler, Ohio writer, focuses on cities, culture, and climate change.Originally published on Yale Climate Link.

Republican House of Representatives Jim Jordan A staunch Trump supporter in Ohio recently called the Biden administration trying to limit fossil fuel emissions “Maybe the craziest thing I have heard,” represents a region of Ohio, and its bizarre shape has earned it the nickname “duck.” To the north of the duck bill is the Democrat Marcy Kaptur District, which is a long stretch of land along Lake Erie: “The Snake on the Lake.” , As people often say.

Two districts Appear frequently In the list The worst example in the country Constituency, Ohioans voted to control a practice 2018. However, the reforms implemented for the 2021 re-division process did not go as planned.Republican Governor Mike DeWine (Mike DeWine) on November 20 Sign the new Congress map into law According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, this gave his party a significant advantage. Rate the map F. Groups such as the Ohio League of Women Voters and the National Redistricting Action Fund have filed lawsuits Alleged that the redivision of the committee violated the state constitution.

Another organization The prosecution redistribution committee is Ohio Environmental Commission, An advocacy group based in Columbus. According to full-time lawyer Chris Tavenor, recent history shows that the new map will play a key role in shaping climate action in the state.

“In the past 10 years, most of our legislatures in Ohio have passed bill after bill. These bills have weakened Ohio’s ability to respond to climate change,” he said.These Republican majority vetoes are the direct result of harmful re-division of constituencies. 64-35 majority In Ohio home and 25-8 majority In the Senate, even though it has averaged only 54% of the votes in state elections over the past decade.

Reclassification and Gerrymandering

The changes in this story are happening all over the United States this year As the political map was redrawn.

“After the decennial census, it is reclassified every 10 years,” said Adam Podowitz-Thomas, senior legal strategist at the Gerrymandering Project in Princeton. The goal is simple: as the population of different parts of the country increases and decreases over time, political boundaries also need to change to ensure that the number of representatives of each resident is roughly equal. But in many cases, this process will evolve into a struggle for party power. Democratic Party with Republicans Both are engaged in classification.

The term gerrymandering originated in 1812 when the governor of Massachusetts El bridge gly A bill was signed to approve an extremely distorted map for the benefit of his party. It is said that one of the new areas is similar to a salamander—or, as a contemporary wise man described it, a “Gerry-mander”.

This approach has produced repercussions throughout American political life. “According to political science research??, we know that electoral districts distort the loudest voices of representatives. Delimiting boundaries may prevent communities that have a consensus on certain issues from seeking a voice from a single legislator,” Podowitz-Thomas said. “I think this will also lead to partisanship and polarization among the elected.”

Ohio’s anti-renewable energy agenda

In Ohio, the division of constituencies made Republican lawmakers ignore Public support for clean energy.* In 2014, state officials passed a law calling for setbacks on wind farms. Critics say it will Make new development costs prohibitively high. Five years later, the state passed House Bill 6: “The worst energy bill of the 21st centuryYingshi century,” David Roberts wrote in an article written for Vox in 2019. The bill supports aging coal-fired power plants while weakening the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, ultimately leading to the Department of Justice Investigation of bribery and corruption.

Recently, Ohio Senate Act No. 52 has brought new challenges to renewable energy projects. Empower county officials Determine the fate of the proposed solar and wind farms, including banning them completely. The development of fossil fuels does not have such restrictions in the state.

As already happened In many parts of the country, The Ohio legislature is also trying to limit the environmental ambitions of the state’s cities, and its voters and elected officials are Reliably more free Than those in surrounding area. A bill Forbidden city Prohibition of natural gas, even if the state has not issued such a ban; other Prohibition of taxes on plastic bags.

The Mayor of Cincinnati, John Cranley, is a Democrat. He believes that Senate Bill 52 belongs to the category of punishment cities. “Now, Cincinnati is building Largest solar farm It used to be built by cities in the United States,” he said, with the goal of making municipal operations carbon neutral. “This is a reaction to what we did. [the Ohio Senate] A law was passed that now stipulates that if local governments like Cleveland, Columbus, or Toledo want to follow suit and do things similar to ours, they must now abide by a new law that allows small counties to tell farmers they can What to do and what not to do with their land. Cranley said that since the best land for wind and solar development is often located in conservative rural areas, state senators inferred that local officials would sympathize with their agenda.

Dealing with Texas

Similar situations are happening in other parts of the country.For example, in Texas, most residents Strong support for bold climate action,* But elected officials stand in the way. “This past [state] The legislature has not held a hearing on the climate change bill — well, it is a bill on actions to improve climate change,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of the advocacy group Texas environment“There are some hearings on bills that deprive cities of their rights to deal with climate change, but there are no bills that actively try to solve the problem.”

Metzger said he believes that allowing politicians to draw constituencies can actually guarantee their own victory, which makes them less sensitive to voters’ concerns and more susceptible to strong commercial interests (such as the oil and gas industry). . Living in liberal Austin, he rarely spends time contacting his representative Roger Williams, Conservative Republicans Serving the huge and disorganized 25dayCongress district. Williams does not need or expect his vote, nor does he have the motivation to take his concerns seriously. But companies and trade groups have invested a lot of resources to win the support of politicians on issues such as energy policy.

“Large fossil fuel companies spend millions of dollars on campaign donations, lobbying activities and public relations activities, which will ultimately have a considerable impact on politicians,” Metzger said.

Rethink and repartition

Although Ohio’s reforms were in trouble, other reforms achieved greater success.According to Podowitz-Thomas of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, something like California with Michigan It has been shown that they can increase fairness and transparency by actively involving the public in a well-designed citizen-led redistricting process.

This year, he and his colleagues paid close attention to Colorado’s transition to A new redivision process Designed to eliminate party influence and maximize citizen participation.

Marco Dorado, director of the Colorado Anti-Racial Discrimination Organization, said All online, This work basically works as expected.An example: the state’s two 2021 re-division committees—a group of ordinary citizens (four registered Democrats, four registered Republicans, and four independents) rather than politicians, all members passed Strictly random process – Choose requirements that exceed the number of public meetings held across the state.

Reclassification usually hurts the most painful people

Dorado said that reclassification reforms like this one are critical to making progress on climate issues. “Ensuring that voters can choose their elected representatives, and not the other way around-letting elected officials choose their voters-is a very critical part of ensuring that we can meet any challenge.” We will face climate change in the next decade,” He said.

When it comes to environmental issues such as climate change, Podowitz-Thomas emphasized that the risk of rezoning is particularly high for those facing the greatest risks.

He said that across the country, environmental justice communities often split during the re-division of constituencies, weakening their ability to seek help from elected officials. “They are so small in any legislator’s constituency that it’s easy for the legislator to wave his hand to reject them and say,’Well, I really don’t care about this. Anyway, you didn’t really elect me, so I will just ignore your question.'”

Podowitz-Thomas believes that unless the U.S. Senate revises or cancels the obstruction bill, state-level efforts like Colorado represent the best hope for allowing communities to express opinions on climate change and other pressing issues. Although some states are lagging behind others in redefining reforms, he is optimistic about the future.

“I don’t want people to feel desperate about this. Ordinary citizens have a lot of energy and attention, which was not the case ten years ago,” he said. “I think it does make a difference when people show up and express their opinions. It really puts pressure on people who are drawing lines to map a fairer area.”

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