Davidson proposes constitutional change for electoral maps

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, wants to have House districts divided up by citizenship, not population. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

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U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, wants to have House districts divided up by citizenship, not population. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Congressman Warren Davidson is proposing a constitutional amendment to change how Congressional districts are represented.

Davidson, a Troy Republican, wants to end the practice of counting non-citizens for electoral maps, which means states with high number of illegal immigrants could have the number of representatives in the U.S. House reduced.

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The federal government allocates congressional seats, as well as Electoral College votes, based on a state’s population count. Davidson said that gives states like California an unfair advantage when it comes to representation. An estimated 2.35 million undocumented immigrants reside in California while an estimated 95,000 undocumented immigrants live in Ohio,according to the Pew Research Center.

Davidson said if congressional seats are broken up by citizenship, that means California and other states with a high number of undocumented immigrants would reduce while Ohio, which is expected to drop to 15 House representatives, would gain representation.

“There’s a perverse incentive to have illegal citizenship,” Davidson said. “States like California are rewarded by turning a blind eye to the law.”

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in April 2016 all of a state’s resident, regardless of voting eligibility, may be counted when drawing election districts. This includes not only undocumented illegal immigrants, but documented legal immigrants, such as those here on work and student visas, and those working towards citizenship

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But political science experts say this attempt to change the U.S. Constitution — which requires a two-thirds majority of both chambers of Congress and ratification by 38 states — is unlikely given that immigration is a highly controversial topic and the lack of amiability in today’s political landscape.

“This is definitely an issue that has become more and more important in our political discourse,” said Xavier University political science professor Mack Mariani.

The intent of a constitutional amendment is to address an issue that transcends left and right issues and are “not a law that will change for Congress to Congress. They are something we live with for the long term, and the founders made it difficult on purpose.”

Mariani said Davidson’s attempt is similar to other proposed constitutional amendments, which “they are meant to be a way to establish an issue or raise awareness.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said if Davidson wants fair representation, he should support the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign, “the congressional redistricting ballot measure which mirrors the legislative redistricting reform proposal that passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support in 2015.”

Gerrymandered districts — like Davidson’s, which was drawn to ensure (former Speaker) John Boehner had a safe Republican seat — lead to fewer competitive elections and elected officials who are less accountable to their constituents,” Pepper said. “That’s the number one issue undermining our democracy right now, not Davidson’s sham amendment, which would cause electoral chaos — all for political purposes.”

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University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven said there are several “extreme conservative” constitutional amendment proposals, including repealing the 17th Amendment that allows for the direct election of U.S. Senators, takes a long time to ratify.

The 27th Amendment, which dictates when changes in congressional salaries start, took 202 years. It was a little quicker, but it took three years to lower the voting age to 18.

Niven said it also sends a negative message to the military.

“Proponents would have difficult time reconciling it, since you don’t need to be a citizen to serve in the us armed forces,” he said. “You’d be saying to the to the soldier, ‘You don’t count.’”

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