Indianapolis Republican John Ruckelshaus has a solid proposal to improve the state's legislative and congressional redistricting process. Senate Bill 91 would establish a nine-member commission to hold public hearings and recommend plans to draw electoral maps approved by the General Assembly.
But Ruckelshaus' bill isn't likely to advance without pressure from voters. GOP leadership is offering up SB 105 instead – a token measure designed to feign interest in a fair and transparent electoral process. A hearing on Sen. Greg Walker's bill is set for 10 a.m. Monday. Redistricting reform supporters, through the All IN for Democracy coalition, hope to pack the committee hearing.
“Redistricting reform is a two-part equation. Real reform involves both who draws the maps and how they are drawn,” wrote Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana, in an email. “SB 105 deals only with how, not who, and arguably, whois the more important part of the equation. We've got to sever the conflict of interest that automatically occurs when the General Assembly controls redistricting. But, of course, that's the tougher sell to the legislature – since they recognize that controlling the redistricting process is a powerful political tool.”
And how. With control of the redistricting process in 2011, GOP lawmakers approved maps that in 2012 resulted in supermajority status in both the Indiana Senate and House, even as Republican congressman Mike Pence was elected governor with just 49 percent of the vote. Newly drawn congressional maps added another Republican seat to the Indiana delegation, giving the party control of seven of nine seats.
The electoral advantage is won by drawing boundaries that either concentrate as many of your political opponents as possible in one district, or drawing them into districts with just enough of your own voters so the other party has no chance of winning. Indiana Republicans hold control now, but Democrats wielded that power in past years. Ruckelshaus, in fact, was a victim of Democratic gerrymandering in 1992.
“ 'Safe seats' in gerrymandered voting districts are bad for all citizens because they eliminate competition,” wrote Peg Maginn, a Fort Wayne resident and member of the League of Women Voters, in an email. “Candidates are applying for the position of representative and we should expect them to do the necessary preparation and hard work needed to earn our vote. Citizens deserve to know that they will listen to our voices and work for us rather than a particular political party.”
But Vaughn said it remains an uphill battle in Indiana.
“This year we are really missing the sense of urgency on this issue that needs to be felt inside the Statehouse,” she wrote. “Members of our coalition are all too aware that time is running out for redistricting reform but that same sense of urgency is missing among most legislators. So that's frustrating.”
Time is running out because maps will be redrawn in 2021, based on Census results collected next year.
Vaughn said reform supporters are working to convince Walker and other Republicans on the Senate Elections Committee to accept an amendment that says “No district shall be drawn with the intent of favoring or disfavoring any candidate or political party.”
“If we can get the language in, the bill would be a lot stronger,” Vaughn said. “If the majority party is serious about confronting gerrymandering, they will support this language.”
A fair and transparent redistricting process is necessary to create electoral districts that serve voters instead of politicians. Tell your state representative and senator the process must be reformed this year.
Redistricting Lobby Day
The coalition supporting redistricting reform encourages supporters to attend the Senate Elections Committee hearing at 10 a.m. Monday at the Indiana Statehouse, Room 431. After the hearing, supporters will gather at the Indiana State Library for lunch and a legislative briefing. RSVP at
Contact your legislators
Citizens Action Coalition
1915 W. 18th Street, Suite C
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202