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Groups Push Redistricting Reform as Legislative Session Begins

A rally held in November when the new legislators were sworn in called on lawmakers to hand over the power to redraw legislative districts to an independent citizen commission. (Ashley Toruno/ACLU)
A rally held in November when the new legislators were sworn in called on lawmakers to hand over the power to redraw legislative districts to an independent citizen commission. (Ashley Toruno/ACLU)
January 2, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers returning to the Indiana State Capitol for the start of session tomorrow will be greeted by activists carrying clocks to remind them that time is running out on redistricting reform.

Legislative districts will be redrawn after the 2020 Census, and right now lawmakers are in charge of the map-making process. Julia Vaughn, policy director with Common Cause in Indiana, said that gives the majority party incentive to draw districts that favor its own members.

"Consistently they end up holding a much larger percentage of the seats than would be warranted by their statewide vote total,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn noted that in the 2016 election, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb won with 52 percent of the vote - but his party gained 70 percent of the seats in the Indiana House and 80 percent in the state senate.

Vaughn said she supports Senate Bill 91, which would establish a citizen redistricting commission where some members would be chosen by lawmakers and others drawn from a lottery of Hoosiers who volunteer, with a balance of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Opponents of the bill claim that the current system gives voters a strong say, via their elected representatives.

Lindsay Haake, program organizer with the Citizens Action Coalition, said she's optimistic that Indiana is ready to finally remove the incentives for partisan gerrymandering.

"Across the aisle, this has affected many folks in the statehouse negatively," Haake said. "And they want to move forward with a positive change to empower voters and make them feel like their votes count again. "

Another bill, SB 105, would establish a set of nonpartisan criteria to encourage compact districts that respect communities of interest and are not drawn to benefit the incumbent.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - IN