First steps taken for redistricting reform


South Bend Tribune

Many Hoosiers may not be aware of a task recently undertaken in Indianapolis by a dozen Hoosiers. Some might not care too much if they were.

But they should.

Recently, the special interim committee on redistricting had its first meeting to begin considering alternatives to the state’s redistricting process.

Created when the General Assembly passed a bill that set up an 18-month study on the issue, the committee is made up of legislators and laypeople. Among the options the eight lawmakers and four citizen members will study is an independent redistricting commission, which some other states have done.

That’s good news for all Hoosiers.

Over the years, both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of a system that gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts. The resulting maps make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive. The real losers are the voters, whose role in the political process has been minimized.

Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters of Indiana have praised Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma (Indianapolis), whose layman appointment is former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm, a Democrat with extensive experience with redistricting.

Choosing the best person for the committee job, regardless of that person’s political affiliation, shows the speaker “is serious about redistricting reform,” they said in a recent letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Star.

Less encouraging is a report of the committee’s “rocky start.” An article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette said it was clear in the initial meeting that “not everyone agrees there is a problem.” Two legislators who were in leadership positions when the current set of district maps was drawn defended them as compact, saying they keep communities of interest together.

This defense of the status quo ignores the reality of a redistricting system that the nonpartisan Fair Vote calls a “blood sport” that allows incumbent politicians to “choose their voters before the voters choose them.”

Changing the system here in Indiana starts with the work of the committee, which is tasked with offering its recommendation by Jan. 1, 2017. But ultimately, reform requires the public to demonstrate its interest and investment in such a change.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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