Reform advocates will keep trying


(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Indiana lawmakers have clearly forgotten how democracy is supposed to work.

Voters should be choosing their representatives, but in Indiana again next year, it will be the other way around. Lawmakers will be choosing their voters.

Early in the current session, legislators introduced five separate measures aimed at reforming the once-a-decade redistricting process, but the effort went nowhere.

Not one of those bills got even a committee hearing.

This happened in spite of a grassroots campaign led by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Citizens Action Coalition.

These groups held public meetings across the state. They wrote letters to the editor. They called their legislators. They even showed up at the Statehouse to talk to lawmakers face to face.

And none of it worked. Their elected representatives ignored them.

We should all be disappointed.

When politicians are in charge of this process, they tend to look at things from a partisan perspective. They frequently draw districts that favor one party or the other and ignore communities of interest such as cities and counties, school districts and neighborhoods.

In way too many cases, these districts leave one party with such an advantage the election is effectively over in the primary. Candidates too often find themselves speaking to the fringes, and compromise becomes a dirty word.

Gridlock is the order of the day.

Just to be clear, this should not be a partisan issue. A decade ago, Democrats were in control of the Indiana House of Representatives, and Republicans were advocating reform. Now, Republicans are in charge, and Democrats are the ones calling for change.

Through it all, reform advocates will keep working. They’ll be back again next year insisting that lawmakers carry out this effort in the light of day.

The last time Indiana drew new districts, lawmakers held public hearings, but the timing was off. The maps were not yet finished, so there was little to talk about. And when the maps finally did come out, the public had less than three weeks to offer feedback before the maps were ultimately approved.

Next year, reform advocates will push for more time, and they’ll work to expand opportunities for public input, giving average citizens a chance to draw their own maps.

The goal here is to make voters part of the process, and reform advocates will work to do that with or without the help of Indiana lawmakers.

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