Redistricting is in the news because our legislature is currently drawing maps of new voting districts for the next 10 years.
Many Indiana citizens have worked alongside legislators to improve the map-drawing process.
In 2016, the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting was established.
This bipartisan panel of legislators and citizens, ably led by Republican Chair Jerry Torr, thoroughly researched the subject. They recommended Indiana adopt an independent redistricting commission to draw our maps.
This bill was stopped from coming to a vote in the House Elections and Appropriations Committee by the majority party.
So, this year, All IN for Democracy, a large coalition of civic groups, spent considerable time and energy to develop its own nonpartisan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission.
It consists of three Republicans, three Democrats and three independents selected from among 300 Indiana volunteers with interest and knowledge of redistricting.
The commission had nine meetings throughout the state by Zoom to seek input from citizens about the criteria that should drive the redistricting process and to identify important communities of interest in their region. The results were compiled and sent to the legislature.
The commission also has a free website loaded with mapping software that allows any interested citizens to draw their own maps and submit them. These will be reviewed and judged based on how well they meet the identified desired criteria. The winning maps will be presented to the legislature.
Unfair (“gerrymandered”) districts are a problem in Indiana. Although the state vote split is around 45% to 55% between the two major parties, the ratio in our combined state legislatures is about 25% to 75%.
There is considerable research available that identifies best practices for redistricting. Many other states are using them, and Indiana citizens have said repeatedly in public hearings they want them used in the 2021 process.
Currently, aside from the federal requirements of equal population size and adherence to the Voting Rights Act, Indiana only requires contiguity (all areas within the district must be physically adjacent).
Hoosiers said they want communities of interest kept intact. Those are groups of people in a geographic area such as a neighborhood who have common political, social or economic interests. Twenty-four states have laws that require this.
Hoosiers want voting lines drawn to account for political boundaries (cities, counties, towns). Forty-two other states have this requirement.
Hoosiers want competitive districts. Nineteen states have laws that prohibit unduly favoring (or unfavoring) a candidate or political party.
Hoosiers want compact districts. Compactness means constituents within a district should live as close to one another as possible. Thirty-seven states require this.
Hoosiers want districts drawn incumbent blind. Four states ban considering an incumbent's home address when drawing district lines.
And 18 other states also require the structural procedure of “nesting.” That is, whenever possible, state senate districts are constructed by combining two house districts.
Let's be clear. The use of criteria recommendations or maps from the Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission does not violate our state constitution. The Indiana Constitution gives the legislature control of the redistricting process. And nothing about the process we seek will alter this.
Legislators will still debate and vote on any proposed new maps. The difference is that instead of special-interest lobbyists or party-supported consultants crafting the redistricting bill, it will instead be done by Indiana citizens.
With fine universities and knowledgeable, civic-minded people, Indiana has many well-qualified Hoosiers willing and able to provide the necessary help to legislators. People who don't come to the table with partisan interests.
Drawing fair maps doesn't require any violation of our state constitution. Nor does it require “reinventing the wheel.” All the necessary information is readily available, including the map-drawing software. It simply requires legislators to listen to their constituents and put their selfish interests aside.
Are you tired of politicians who spend time on cultural drivel intended to distract and divide citizens? Are you tired of having your needs and voice ignored while monied special interest groups get the full attention of our legislators?
Then please join me in a united voice of Indiana citizens demanding fair maps.
Fort Wayne resident Peg Maginn is a community volunteer.