The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, June 09, 2021 1:00 am

Preservation of power

Retaining supermajority is GOP's sole motivator

Joseph quinlisk

In the Journal Gazette's June 6 editorial, “ 'All about fairness,' ” a sidebar notes citizens' complaints “about Fort Wayne being divided into too many state legislative districts, and the combination of urban neighborhoods with rural areas.”

This is not a bug, but in fact the primary feature of the current district map, and likely of whatever map gets forced upon Hoosiers after the 2020 Census.

The example cited above is a textbook case of a gerrymandering technique called “cracking,” where voters of the opposition party are divided up like a Thanksgiving turkey in order to dilute their collective voting power.

This is why most of Fort Wayne's representatives don't live in Fort Wayne, and likely have no reason even to visit the city. Republicans in Indianapolis have concluded, with good reason, that letting urban centers such as Fort Wayne remain largely intact would pose a threat to their legislative supermajority.

Fort Wayne also provides a textbook example of another aptly named gerrymandering technique, “packing,”in which district boundaries are drawn so that voters of the opposition party are clustered into a single district. This district is treated as a sacrificial lamb, ensuring that the election remains fair on paper, but minimizing the number of races the party in power has to seriously contest.

In Fort Wayne, this district is House District 80, where the GOP didn't even bother putting up a candidate last year to oppose Democrat Phil GiaQuinta, as they already had a safe lead in every other district in the area.

These are the most basic of gerrymandering tactics, and every party is guilty of them. But in Indiana's case, the GOP has done so masterfully. Republicans have wielded gerrymandering as their political primary strategy to the almost complete exclusion of any meaningful reforms or policy proposals.

As the editorial goes on to note, no Republican won statewide office in 2020 with more than 58% of the vote. Yet every statewide office in Indiana is held by a Republican. This is the Republican template for every race the GOP runs in.

And the Republicans in Indianapolis know this. The maps we have had for the past decade were deliberately designed to cultivate this state of affairs.

And now that they have supermajorities in both houses of the General Assembly, I see no reason to expect that they will allow anything to threaten that power for at least the next decade.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray certainly talks a good game, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if anything actually comes from the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The commission's report will likely be quietly slipped into a dusty filing cabinet and ignored because every recommendation in that report would weaken the GOP's stranglehold on political authority.

That power is the true driving motivation behind redistricting maps. Policy is secondary. Economic development is an afterthought. Fairness is laughably nave. Community is a red herring.

The only concern of the Republican majority in Indianapolis is maintaining control of state political power. In service of that, communities of interest will be split with wild abandon, entire cities will be ignored, and the General Assembly will enact whatever plan ensures that turnover in the Statehouse is minimized.

I certainly hope Republicans in Indianapolis will gift us with more equitable, more representative district maps for 2022. But I'm not holding my breath.

Joseph Quinlisk is a Fort Wayne resident.

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