Jane Mayer on Ohio’s Lurch to the Right

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Last month, the story of a 10-year-old rape victim captured national headlines. The young girl was forced to travel out of state because of Ohio’s draconian abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, which would have been nearly unthinkable until very recently. Jane Mayer took a deep dive into statehouse politics to learn how a longtime swing state—Ohio voted twice for President Barack Obama—ended up legislating like a radically conservative one. Its laws, she says, are increasingly out of step with the state’s voters, and this is owing to a sweeping Republican effort at gerrymandering. While familiar, gerrymandering “has become much more of a dark art,” Mayer tells David Remnick, “thanks to computers and digital mapping. They have figured out ways now to do it that are so extreme, you can create districts [in which the incumbent] cannot be knocked out by someone from another party.” Mayer also speaks with David Pepper, an Ohio politician and the author of “Laboratories of Autocracy,” who explains how a district is firmly controlled by one party, the representative is driven by the primary process inexorably toward extremism, until you have “a complete meltdown of democracy.”

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