Make Redistricting Reform a Top Priority in 2019
Time is running out for real redistricting reform. New districts for Congress and the state legislature will be drawn during the 2021 legislative session. The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting wants a bipartisan citizens commission in place to take charge of the map-drawing in 2021; for that to happen in time the General Assembly must take action this year. No more excuses – it’s time for reform.
Why is Redistricting Reform Needed?
- When legislators have complete control of redistricting it’s a major conflict of interest. It allows incumbents to choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their elected officials.
- Partisan control of redistricting leads to too many uncompetitive or uncontested districts like in 2014, when 44 of the 100 candidates for the Indiana House, and 10 out of 25 candidates for the Indiana Senate, faced no major party opponent in the general election. This leads to low voter turnout. Indiana had the lowest turnout in the country in 2014, at 28%.
- Communities of interest, like cities, counties, neighborhoods and school districts can be splintered by where the lines fall – sometimes leading to their interests being underserved or ignored
Memo to Legislators:
51% is not a SUPER MAJORITY—it is a SIMPLE MAJORITY!
What is Happening in Other States?
In states that utilize ballot initiatives redistricting reform has become extremely popular. Last year voters in Ohio approved redistricting reform and this year redistricting reform ballot initiatives passed in Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and Utah. Here in Indiana, if reform is going to happen it must be passed by the General Assembly.
Should We Wait on the U.S. Supreme Court?
In several states, federal courts have ruled that state legislatures drew maps that were partisan gerrymanders; those rulings are being appealed to the Supreme Court. But, there is no need to wait for passing legislation to create a citizens redistricting commission. The legal issue of whether or not states can empower a group of citizens to conduct redistricting has already been decided by the SCOTUS in a 2016 case from Arizona. The best way to ensure that Indiana isn’t sued over maps drawn in 2021 is to create a diverse and bipartisan citizens commission to conduct the redistricting process. The General Assembly will still be involved because they have to vote on the commission’s maps.
What Is Being Proposed for Indiana?
Senator John Ruckelshaus has proposed legislation to create a nine member citizens redistricting commission composed of Republicans, Democrats and voters who are neither R nor D. Any qualified Hoosier could submit an application to serve via a public selection process conducted by public universities in the state. Legislative leaders would choose finalists from the public submissions but a random draw would determine the commission membership. Commission members must be ethnically, geographically and gender diverse.
Map-drawing criteria should include equal population, respect for the Voting Rights Act, compactness, contiguity and political competition. Special consideration should be given to identifying communities of interest and care should be taken to ensure that district lines do not divide communities or inhibit their ability to make their voices heard.
The redistricting process must be open and transparent, with opportunities for citizens to impact the map-drawing throughout. The public should have access to map-drawing software and all tools available to the official map drafters so they submit their own redistricting proposals.