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Expand chart
Data: Ohio State University election law program via The Cook Political Report; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Some of the most competitive battleground states have some of the least competitive House districts, according to a new data analysis first seen by Axios.

Why it matters: Big gaps between the voting margins in districts and states overall demand explanation, researchers say, since they could be a sign of gerrymandering. An alternative is they're a reflection of Americans increasingly living near like-minded people — a potential boost to candidates on the political extremes.

  • "If a lack of competitiveness is caused by gerrymandering, that's really bad for voters and for democracy, and we'd like to squeeze that out of the system," Ned Foley, an Ohio State University redistricting and election expert, told Axios.
  • Foley is leading the project to analyze the trends.

The data: Researchers at Ohio State looked at the 2020 Biden-Trump election margin for every U.S. House district using data from the Cook Political Report. Then they computed an average for each state.

  • Next, they compared the average to the Biden-Trump margin for the state overall.
  • They viewed that as a way to measure whether states have disproportionately uncompetitive districts.

By the numbers: The battleground states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin had the biggest discrepancy between the competitiveness of the state overall and their average district.

  • This gap existed despite major court decisions forcing new, fairer maps to be drawn in Pennsylvania and North Carolina after the last redistricting cycle in 2010.
  • The gaps largely benefit and protect Republicans in those states, Foley said, although the trend in Arizona — which came in fifth for the largest competitiveness gap — likely favors Democrats.
  • All but Pennsylvania have more Republican members in the House than Democrats. And even in Georgia, where Republicans have only two extra House seats, GOP districts are far less competitive than Democratic ones.

What to watch: Gerrymandering concerns aside, increasingly uncompetitive House districts allow more partisan candidates to thrive.

  • Biden won Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) district by 16 points more than his average margin throughout New York state — underscoring how decidedly blue the population is that elected one of the most progressive members of the House.
  • Trump’s margin over Biden in Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) district was almost 50 points in a state that was almost even between Trump and Biden.
  • The average margin in Georgia districts was already large at 30.5%, but Greene's district was even less competitive.

Yes, but: Not all uncompetitive districts in competitive states are unfair.

  • Following the Voting Rights Act to ensure fair representation can result in compact, uncompetitive districts.

Between the lines: The data is just a first installment of a larger project by Ohio State University's election law program focused on election competitiveness and gerrymandering. It was timed ahead of the redistricting cycle, which will kick off with the release of additional census data in August.

  • Foley thinks there could be more action from Congress to prevent gerrymandering using data like his.
  • Congress could pass laws requiring states with big competitive gaps to go through pre-clearance and explain the discrepancy to the Justice Department or else make a new map, he told Axios.
  • Or, they could create an avenue for litigation over maps with competitive gaps, so states would have to defend it in court.

Go deeper

Ohio trails most states in "entrepreneurial capacity"

Expand chart
Data: Heartland Forward; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

If Ohio wants to boast about its business-friendly climate, it has a lot of work to do.

Driving the news: A new report from Heartland Forward finds that Ohio trails most other states in a study of "entrepreneurial capacity."

  • The Arkansas think tank study ranked us 40th.

Marjorie Taylor Greene hit with 4 more fines over House mask rule

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene during a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday. Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was hit with four fines on Monday for failing to comply with House rules on masks.

By the numbers: House members are fined $500 the first time they break the House pandemic rule and $2,500 is taken from their $174,000 congressional pay each time they commit the offense thereafter — and Greene has been cited at least seven times for this, per the Washington Post.

Greene's fines unmasked

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has already been fined a quarter of her congressional salary for not wearing a mask on the House floor, yet she says that pales in comparison to the price paid by other public employees.

Why it matters: Republicans have defied a slate of measures put in place by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and bolster security following the Jan. 6 attack. And Greene has the personal wealth to withstand fines aimed at enforcing them.