HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PASSES BIPARTISAN BACKGROUND CHECKS ACT & CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE BILL

Feb 13, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 23-15 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 21-14.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement after the markup:

“I am pleased that both H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 passed out of the Committee today, making them one step closer to passing the U.S. House of Representatives. Although we know the issue of gun violence won’t be fixed overnight, there are steps Congress can and must take to address it. Closing loopholes in the current background check system are long-overdue legislative measures that will help address this national crisis.

“I commend Reps. Mike Thompson and Peter King for their efforts to advance H.R. 8, legislation to require background checks on all firearm sales. Equally, I commend Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn for introducing H.R. 1112, legislation to close the dangerous ‘Charleston loophole,’ a shortcoming in the current law that enables some firearms to be transferred by licensed gun dealers before the required background checks have been completed, which was the case in the tragic hate-crime shooting that took place in 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I am heartened by the mobilization of so many Americans who are making their voices heard and advocating for passage of legislation to prevent gun violence.  Both of the bills passed out of the Committee today tackle real problems within our current system.

[Speaking out to our legislators does make a difference!]

More at https://judiciary.house.gov/news/press-releases/house-judiciary-committee-passes-bipartisan-background-checks-act-charleston 

BACKGROUND: Under current law, background checks are conducted by licensed gun dealers only. Unlicensed sellers do not have to conduct a background check, even if the seller sells a large number of guns. 

H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, would make it illegal for any person who is not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer, or dealer to transfer a firearm to any other person who is not licensed, without a background check. The bill also provides a number of exemptions to this requirement, including gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. 

H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, addresses a loophole that contributed to the tragic hate-crime murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The shooter was not legally allowed to possess a firearm as a result of drug charges, but he still was able to purchase his gun from a licensed dealer, who made the decision to transfer after three business days had elapsed, despite not having received a definitive response from the background check system.

End Gerrymandering

In the 2019 legislative session, three bills have been filed in the Senate and three in the House.  SB 91 and HB 1011 are closest to the independent commission goals of our Coalition.   Neither, however, has even been heard in committee, so it’s unlikely that they will be going anywhere.  Deadlines for completing action in their respective chambers (passing out of committee and passing 2nd and 3rd readings in the chamber) are February 25 and 26.  

Monday, February 25, 2019 Last day for 3rd reading of House bills in House
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 Last day for 3rd reading of Senate bills in Senate 

SB 105 would achieve part of our goals, but only by establishing redistricting standards. It does not address who will be responsible for drawing the lines, a crucial issue for reform.

Although SB 105, the redistricting standards bill, passed the Senate Elections Committee by a 5-2 vote on Monday, February 4th, it has been sitting on 2nd reading for more than a week.  Senator Greg Walker is still contemplating language for an amendment to improve transparency and public access to redistricting data and mapping software.  This amendment has to be added on 2nd reading and our coalition has been working with Senator Walker to craft language he is comfortable with. 

The delay, however, is allowing opponents to come up with additional reasons to criticize the bill.  The All IN for Democracy lobbying team has been busy talking to Senate members this week and has gotten more pushback this year than last.  In some areas of the state Republican party officials are urging their legislators to vote NO on SB105.  So, this means we really need to step up our grassroots pressure.  

ACTION ITEM

Legislators won’t act on this issue unless they hear from their constituents that redistricting reform is vital to the survival of our democracy! 

Contact them!  

If you have already sent your senator (Tim Lanane or Mike Gaskill) a message about SB 105, we need you to enlist your friends and family in the campaign.  Please share this link to your social media and email contacts and encourage them to send a message to their state senator:  
https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-the-indiana-senate-support-strong-redistricting-reform/?

Alternatively, call or email 

Senator Lanane, 317-232-9427,  s25@iga.in.gov  

Senator Gaskill, 800-382-9467, s36@iga.in.gov 

Suggested text:

As your constituent, I am urging you to support SB105, the redistricting standards bill.  

 

We must end gerrymandering in Indiana, and this bill is an important first step toward that goal.   I hope you will work with Common Cause IN and the League of Women Voters of IN redistricting coalition to make it stronger.  

 

We need a fair, impartial, and transparent process in place when redistricting takes place in 2021. Please do what you can to make that happen.

LEARN MORE

Two presentations focus on the issue and where we go from here.

“Redistricting Reform: What’s Next?” 

Presented by Linda Hanson, Spokesperson for LWVM-DC and LWVIN Board Director

WHEN: Saturday, 23 February, 10-11:30 AM

WHERE: Kennedy Library, Muncie 

 “How Gerrymandering Defines Indiana’s Education Policies” 

Presented by Dr. Jennifer McCormick, IN Superintendent of Public Instruction, and 

Julia Vaughn, Policy Director of Common Cause

WHEN: Tuesday, February 26, 2019, 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM 

WHERE: New Castle-Henry County Public Library auditorium, 376 South 15th Street, New Castle

League of Women Voters

Gun Safety Coalition call report

February 4, 2019

7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

The telephone conference was opened by a welcome from Patti Brigham, LWV of Florida.  

Oshane McCrary of the Center for American Progress gave an update on Federal action:

On WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, for the first time in 8 years, there will be a hearing for a bill to enact universal background checks.  It is HR 8 – The Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, and would require background checks for every firearm purchase.  It will be marked up and voted on in the next couple of weeks.  This is the number #1 action call right now…..contact your representatives and encourage them to vote for its passage.  It has 228 co-sponsors; 5 of whom are Republicans.  It looks likely to pass, as there are 218 votes needed.  It is being heard in the Judiciary Committee

On the Center for American Progress website (at the very bottom of its opening page) is a powerful two-minute video about letting our legislators know that we will vote on the basis of support for gun reform.  

 

The guest speakers were introduced.  Amber Goodwin and Awo Eni were with us from the Community Justice Action Fund.

Amber is located in Houston.  She has been working with Gabbi Gifford.  When the Charleston shooting occurred four years ago (Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church) she became more active.  Communities of Color were being affected by gun violence, but nothing was being legislated.  The Community Justice Reform Coalition saw that the urban community wasn’t being included in the dialogue.  She spoke of the need for policy to be let by survivors, in communities affected by gun violence.

There are policies that are evidence-based – proven efficacy.  The goal is to put the responsibility back on the policy makers:

  1. Fund proven methods to reduce gun violence.  The Black community is decimated by homicides.  There are proven methods of intervention.
  2. Create trust, justice, and equity between communities and law enforcement.
  3. Support initiatives to reduce gender-based violence.  We must support domestic policies to include intimate partner violence.
  4. Children must be protected from gun violence.  Education on safe storage; guns are not acceptable in the hands of children.
  5. Close dangerous loopholes with gun dealers. Address traffic between states.
  6. Remove barriers to research. Gun violence must be funded as a Public Health Issue, with support from local Health Departments and the CDC.
  7. Address hate crime head on!  Acknowledge the connection between hate and gun violence.

 

It is our responsibility to pass legislation to make our communities safer.  We must support positive legislation, and introduce it where none exists.

We must partner with local organizations, and uplift local organizations.

 

Call-ins:

Florida is seeing success with Child Access Prevention through promoting trigger locks.  They have support from the Veterans Administration.  They are actively seeking funding to promote this initiative.

Florida is also working on legislation to ban assault weapons.  They plan to put it on the ballot in 2020 as a Citizens’ Initiative.

Discussion on the number of guns in the Black urban community:  Many are stolen, and there is an illegal flow from surrounding states.  Chicago has very strict gun laws, but there is a known stream coming from Gary and Milwaukee – in states with weaker laws.  It was also stated that communities need resources and skills to improve life so that they don’t resort to using guns.

Violence Against Women Act.  The act expired during the government shutdown.  There is no available funding, so action must be taken to see that it is renewed and funded.  As an example of its reach – during 2017 there were over 350,000 calls to its hotline.  

There also needs to be research into the intersection of suicide and gun access.   We must encourage resources for trauma and healing within communities.  Law enforcement officers are also increasingly resorting to suicide.

Doctors are becoming more vocal.  The Giffords PAC and Doctors for America are promoting hospital-based interventions.  All members are encouraged to reach out to doctors via email.  

State updates:

Florida – is expanding the Guardian Program – to arm teachers.  It is being expanded to include all teachers who are trained.  There is tremendous push-back from teachers.

Indiana has a bill introduced HB 1284.  It would expand Indiana’s dangerous “Stand Your Ground” law by granting civil immunity to people who use deadly force against their fellow citizens.  This bill would make it nearly impossible to take shooters to court for harming others.

The meeting ended at 7:45.

Again,  

ACTION ITEMS:

HR 8 – on the federal level – Universal Background Checks

HB 1284 on the state level – Expanded Stand Your Ground

Thanks,

Judy Forkan Kapoun  

Report from recent meetings of Muncie Community Schools Board of Trustees:


Non-college career opportunities

The Board spends the first part of one meeting a month with presentations by education related groups.  Several presentations have focused on non-college opportunities for Muncie students.  One is through Vincennes University, with programs complementing the Career Center and Ivy Tech options.  Another one is through Sustainable Muncie and its Purdue polytechnic programs such as robotics, quality control engineering and computerized engineering. 

(Front Row l-r) James Williams, Brittany Bales, Jim Lowe, Dave Heeter (Back Row l-r) Keith O’Neal, Mark Ervin, WaTasha Barnes Griffin

There are not enough properly trained Muncie students to meet local employment demands at companies like Progressive Rail, Muncie Power Products, Magma and others. 

While there are county district students in the Sustainable Muncie program, there are no Central students.  The Board conducted a lengthy discussion about how to make more students and families aware of these opportunities.  A gateway program is needed at the Middle Schools as well as career discussion in elementary grades.

 Work must start soon if these programs and opportunities are to be included in the MCS plan presented to the State of Indiana by June 2020.

 

Leadership Search 

             Board members are attending many meetings related to the district’s leadership search.  In early January they extended the timeline for proposals to encourage a wider range of search companies to apply.  The Board will hold a leadership retreat in the near future for discussion with an outside consultant.

CHS Graduation Rate

             A year ago, Central High School (CHS) reported a dismal 78.42 graduation rate when a state audit revealed inadequate documentation for 61 students who left for various reasons.  With renewed attention to documentation, the 2018 rate improved to 94.1%.  Chris Walker, CHS principal said, “Our rate will always be lower because we include special needs students who receive certificates of completion rather than the 40 credit general diploma.”

Building upkeep and repairs

             Board member Jim Lowe is applying his BSU facilities expertise to the MCS buildings.  He proposes a spreadsheet for each building listing both short and long-term projects.  He shared the BSU spreadsheet for Worthen Arena as an example. 

 

Bea Sousa
LWV Observer

 

Senator

Tim Lanane

Representative

Sue Errington

Representative

Melanie Wright

Voter Services

Nicole Etcheson

Senator Tim Lanane and Representatives Sue Errington and Melanie Wright discussed school safety, teacher raises, CAFO regulations, gender pay inequity, hate crimes legislation, and other legislation at the Legislative Update on February 9th at Maring-Hunt Library. They answered questions from the audience and listened to citizens’ concerns about education in Indiana, potholes on I-69, and other issues. 

Nicole Etcheson

Voter Services will be doing voter registration in the high schools this spring.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Nicole Etcheson at VoterService@LWVMuncieDelaware.Org 

 

 

Redistricting Standards Bill Set for hearing Feb 4th

 

Senator Greg Walker has set Feb. 4th as the hearing day for SB105, his bill to create a set of redistricting standards.  Although it’s not everything we want, it gives us a legislative vehicle in play, which is of utmost important. 

We still need to work on getting a hearing for SB91, Senator Ruckelshaus’ citizens redistricting commission bill, so if you haven’t contacted Senator Walker yet, please do so asap at Senator.Walker@iga.in.gov 

Here’s a suggestion for your message, but please feel free to use your own language.

“Senator Walker, Thanks for your leadership on redistricting reform and for bringing back your bill to create redistricting standards – that’s an important part of reform.  But it’s even more important to create a citizens redistricting commission to sever the conflict of interest that exists when legislators draw the lines.  Please give SB91 a hearing.”

 

Redistricting lobby day Feb 4th

 

It’s important that we send a clear message to Senator Walker and the rest of the committee that time is running out for redistricting reform and we want the whole package this year. 

Our plan is to pack the committee room at 10 a.m. with redistricting reform supporters and when the hearing is over, likely around noon, we’ll go across the street to the Indiana State Library for lunch and a legislative briefing.  We’ll brainstorm about ways you can help build support in your community and get your legislators to support reform. The briefing will last until about 2 p.m. 

If you can, make an appointment to meet with your legislator when session adjourns that day.  Please let Julia Vaughn know if you will be attending on Feb. 4th at  jvaughn@commoncause.org

 

Contact

Email Senator Walker  and ask him to support Senator Ruckelshaus’ citizens redistricting commission bill, SB91.

 

Email Senator Walker

Redistricting lobby day Feb 4th

 

If you are in the Indianapolis area and available on the evening of Jan. 30th – we need your help.  Coalition partner Hoosier Environmental Council is sponsoring a phone bank for redistricting from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Indiana Interchurch Center at 1100 W. 42nd Street. 

We’ll be calling folks in Senator Walker and Rep. Wesco’s districts to ask them to contact their legislators.  Here’s a link for more information.
https://www.facebook.com/events/393283718117709/    

Hope to see you at the State House on Feb. 4th! 

Thanks for all your help!

 

Meet  with  your legislator Feb 4th

If you can, make an appointment to meet with your legislator when session adjourns on Feb 4, 2019

 

Find Your Legislator

 

League Day at the Statehouse, 16 January 2019

 

By Linda Hanson

Our Fabulous Four

Linda Hanson, Judy Kapoun, Julie Mason, and Katie Williams of the Muncie-Delaware County League joined about 40 other League members from around the state in Indianapolis on Wednesday to confer about League priorities and talk to our respective legislators regarding bills before the 2019 Indiana General Assembly.

Coming up…                        Saturday, 26 January

To learn more about education legislation, come to our joint LWV and AAUW (American Association of University Women) meeting on Saturday, 26 January, 10 am, at MOMs

(Motivate our Minds, 2023 E Highland Ave, Muncie, IN  47303)

Coming up…                      Saturday, 09 February

Our legislative update on February 9 at Maring-Hunt Library will provide further opportunity for all of us to hear from and speak with Senator Tim Lanane, Representatives Sue Errington and Melanie Wright, and potentially others whose districts include parts of Delaware County.

Report on Legislator meetings

LWVM-DC Spokesperson Linda Hanson, Judy Kapoun, Julie Mason, and Katie Williams met with Senators Tim Lanane and Mike Gaskill and Representatives Sue Errington and Melanie Wright.  Representative Kevin Mahan had to cancel our appointment at the last minute.  With each of our legislators we were able to discuss the necessity for Redistricting Reform during this session as well as gun safety bills, natural resources bills, and education legislation we support (more on those specifics bills will be forthcoming). 

Each of our legislators would appreciate feedback from constituents about legislative priorities.  To provide yours, go to Senator Lanane’s or your Representative’s website and click on their legislative survey.  They want to be able to speak from awareness of their constituents’ opinions!

January 7, 2019  7 pm EST

League of Women Voters Gun Safety Coalition Call

After the welcome from Patricia Brigham, LWV of Florida, the guest speaker was introduced.

Nico Bocour, Giffords Law Center

2018 has seen a lack of action on the Federal level, but much action on the State level, especially after the Parkland (Florida) shooting.  67 new or strengthened laws have occurred in 26 states and the District of Columbia:

        Extreme Risk Protection Order policies have been enacted in eight states – with fie Republican governors.

        There have been efforts to fund gun violence reduction programs.

        Interventions are being introduced to reduce urban gun violence.

        Disarming domestic abusers has been a policy initiative.

In polling, gun control continues to be a major issue:

               Amongst Democrats, it is the second most important issue, and overall, it is the fourth most important issue.

The biggest challenge to the movement:

        There is difficulty defining “extreme risk”, as the gun lobby continues to try to weaken laws.

        The gun lobby is doubling down on the notion that more guns equals greater safety.

        Lawmakers seem to be creating diversion programs rather than crafting actual policy.

Guns in Schools:

               The gun lobby is promoting Open Carry on college campuses, and pushing to open that option to lower school systems.  The strategy has encountered opposition, as private colleges have political sway and reach out to lawmakers.  Law enforcement on college campuses –the gun lobby wants to change who is authorized to carry, and who is deputized.  This brings into question whether they have been trained, or have law enforcement background.

               There is a difference between placing law enforcement and arming school staff.  Arming school staff, especially in K-12, is not popular and receiving lots of pushback.

               There are suggestions of placing former military in the position of protecting schools.  Bocour stated that they don’t oppose trained professionals, but oppose citizens.  Acceptance  depends upon language, and level of training.

The best way to fight the gun lobby is at the legislative level;  actions have produced fear of the gun CONTROL lobby.  We must be consistent! Keep requesting the same priorities.  Continue speaking up, calling out, being informed.  “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”! Stay positive…but we’re moving in the right direction. 

Questions and comments from the audience:

·         Mary from IL:  Questioned whether there are studies of the effectiveness of metal detectors. She referenced that there aren’t mass shootings in inner city schools.

         Bocour said that she would research.

·        Marion from OH:  Asked about status of the Universal Background Check House Bill 8.

         Bocour said that she is optimistic, especially in the House.

·        Kristen from SC: Stated that she is worried about institutional racism; that Children of color would be victims if school personnel were armed. She also spoke about Red Flag laws that restrict guns in the hands of dangerous individuals;  she fears that judges will not take action because of 2nd amendment protections.

           Bocour: Racial bias is another reason not to advocate for armed law enforcement in schools.

          Historically, School Resource Officers (SRO) have not been effective; as evidenced by the SRO at Parkland who did not enter the school when the shooting began.  There have been increased calls for action, with the gun lobby pushing for more guns.  Again, to them, more guns equal more safety.  It is an illusion of a solution.  Law enforcement placement escalates the situation; responding requires a lot of training.  There is also the possibility of hiring a “hypervigilant” individual.  Giffords stand is not opposed to SRO, but feels that it is not the ultimate solution.  We must reduce the number of firearms in public places.

·         Member from IL:  comment:  In the case of an active shooter, it can take law enforcement 30-40 minutes to reach the site….we must reach other solutions.

Giffords organization has published a 60 page report with  firearm statistics.  The suicide rate is higher than the homicide rate with firearms.  This is where background checks with a waiting period could impact the outcomes.  Extreme Risk Laws are a tool against suicide and mass shootings.  Giffords Law Center Protecting The Next Generation

Member questioned whether there has been an influence from the Me Too Movement.  It has raised bipartisan support against domestic violence.  NRA, however, feels that there will not be “due process” in Extreme Risk cases, and has voiced opposition.

Stand Your Ground has been re-launched, and my surface in Ohio.  Legislators may push for more extreme version of Stand Your Ground in Florida and other states. 

Since the NRA told doctors to “stay in your lane”, there has been an outcry from medical and Public Health groups at the state and Federal level.  They are becoming more active.

Giffords Law Center Annual Gun Law Scorecard for Indiana

The Case for Redistricting Reform

 

  • Basic Facts & Background
  • Problem
  • Solution

The Case for Redistricting Reform


Basic Facts & Background:

  • In Indiana, the General Assembly draws the United States Congress and the General Assembly district maps. The process takes place every ten years using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  •  Indiana’s current system of having legislators draw district maps creates the ultimate conflict of interest. Because the process is highly partisan, it is unrealistic to expect politicians not to exploit it for political advantage. 
  • Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing districts to benefit a particular party or candidate.  Redistricting is the process used by government bodies to redraw the boundaries of electoral districts.Both Democrats and Republicans engage in gerrymandering; the party in power draws the maps. 
      For explanations and maps of gerrymandering, see http://Washingtonpost.com/wonkblog   for October 28, 2016 …  Washingtonpost.com How to Gerrymander Your Way to a Huge Election Victory 
  • The LWVIN partnered with Common Cause Indiana in 2014 to create a state-wide coalition calling for redistricting reform in Indiana. The coalition partners include: Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens Action Coalition, ACLU, NAACP, Indiana Farmers Union, Jobs for Justice and Moral Mondays.  All IN for Democracy is the logo for the coalition.
  • The legislature responded by appointing a Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting that met through 2016. Members included: Chair, Rep. Jerry Torr; Vice Chair, Sen. Brandt Hershman; Sen. Timothy Lanane; Sen. Patricia Miller; Sen. Karen Tallian; Rep. John Bartlett; Rep. Justin Moed; Rep. Kathy Richardson; Lay Members – Ted Boehm; Beverly Gard; Sheila S. Kennedy; Tom Sugar.  The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting put forward a proposal to the Special Interim Study Committee on redistricting, and a number of the recommendations shaped the report to the legislature.
  • HB1014 was the primary redistricting reform bill the LWVIN followed in 2017. HB1014 was co-authored by Speaker Brian Bosma and Rep. Jerry Torr and follows the Interim Study Committee’s recommendation. Representatives John Bartlett and Moed signed on as co-authors.   HB1014 was not voted out of the House Election and Apportionment Committee chaired by Republican Milo Smith.

In 2018 SB 326 was the only redistricting bill put forward.  It set criteria for the process, but did not specify who would be doing the redistricting.  It passed the Senate but was not even heard in the House Election and Apportionment Committee chaired by Republican Milo Smith.

In the 2019 legislative session, three bills have been filed in the Senate and one in the House.  SB 91 and HB 1011 are closest to the independent commission goals of our Coalition; Sen. Lanane’s SB 37 and SB 105 would achieve part of our goals, the latter only by establishing redistricting standards.


Problem

  • Process of drawing districts
  • Who is drawing districts

    Our current system allows legislators to choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their legislators on Election Day. While population requirements must be met, lines deliberately include or exclude groups of voters based on political affiliation.

  •  Both at Congressional and state legislative levels, gerrymandering has reduced competition.  In 2014, 44 out of 100 candidates for the Indiana House and 10 of the 25 candidates for the state Senate had no opponents. 
    In 2016 Indiana primaries, 81.4% of Democrat incumbents and 78.6 Republican incumbents were unopposed.

  • Gerrymandered districts undermine the basic concept of one person, one vote and make it more difficult to hold our elected officials accountable.  In the 2018 midterm election Sen. Donnelly won 45% of the statewide vote; however, our IN congressional delegation (2D, 7R), IN Senate (10D, 40R), and IN House (33D, 67R) do not reflect that voter distribution.

  • Non-competitive elections negatively affect voter turnout – already a big problem in Indiana.  People do not vote without competition.   According to the 2014 Civic Health Index, Indiana’s voter turnout in 2014 was 28%, the lowest in the nation.

  • With a lack of competition comes polarization. Creation of “safe” gerrymandered districts often results in the election of candidates who are at the ideological edges of their party and who feel little commitment to respond to the concerns of all their constituents. Instead, they may focus on pleasing certain interest groups. 
    (31 IN House districts lacked competition in 2018.

  • When legislators draw the lines, the process is conducted behind closed doors and is not transparent. The lack of transparency decreases public trust in the process. 


Solution

New districts for Congress and the state legislature will be drawn during the 2021 legislative session.  The Indiana General Assembly must pass legislation this year to create an independent non-partisan redistricting commission

  • Familiarize yourself with the Election Committee members of each chamber. If a committee member is from your district, let them know you will be following legislation for redistricting reform and support the establishment of a citizen-led, independent commission to draw congressional and legislative maps.
  • Call and/or write your legislators!

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.