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Redistricting Reform: Will Indiana Try Ohio's Approach?

Gerrymandering might be minimizing both competition and voter turnout in Indiana legislative races. Credit: Massimo Catarinella/morguefile.com
Gerrymandering might be minimizing both competition and voter turnout in Indiana legislative races. Credit: Massimo Catarinella/morguefile.com
November 16, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - Some groups are hopeful Indiana will follow the lead of its neighbor and take steps to prevent gerrymandering.

Ohio voters this month approved changes to the way its legislative districts are drawn, and a study committee in Indiana is examining what can be done here. Debbie Asberry, a board member of the League of Women Voters, said districts in Indiana currently are established in a way that can favor one political party over another.

"The party in power usually draws the line to support their incumbent, to minimize competition or to eliminate competition," she said. "The basic underlying issue is that it is a structural impediment to our democratic process."

The study commission is considering whether to create an independent commission to draw the lines, removing the process from the hands of any one political group. Similar commissions are set up in Arizona, California and, soon, in Ohio.

In Indiana's 2014 midterm elections, there were 44 uncontested races in the House and ten in the Senate. Asberry said good candidates are not stepping up to run for office, and voters are not turning out because they feel the cards are stacked against them.

"The proof is in the pudding," she said, "and when we have that many noncompetitive elections and we have voter apathy, low voter turnout - we know that there's something going on."

Asberry said she believes momentum is building for redistricting reform, with a packed house at the study committee's first meeting. The League of Women Voters and Common Cause are among the groups informing voters and building support for redistricting at the local level.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN