(Anderson) Herald Bulletin
There’s got to be a better way to do this.
Every 10 years, the state legislature redraws Indiana legislative and congressional districts. And once a decade, they get it wrong.
That’s because the party in power, whether it be Democrats or Republicans, abuses that power, manipulating the maps for political gain instead of adjusting the district lines to account for population shifts and follow the fundamentals of contiguity, compactness and competition.
The most recent redistricting, based on the 2020 census, is particularly outrageous.
Emboldened by its supermajority in both houses, the GOP shamelessly ignored pleas from the public for nonpartisan redistricting and redrew lines to favor Republican incumbents and displace Democratic lawmakers.
Consider Congressional District 5, which includes all of Madison County. The district was redrawn to leave out Marion County, which contains Democratic strongholds, and to take in Delaware County and most of Howard County, both heavily Republican areas.
In 2020, Democrats and Republicans waged a pitched battle for the District 5 seat, pumping millions of dollars into the campaign. The GOP’s Victoria Spartz prevailed, winning her first term in Congress by less than 5% of the vote over Democrat Christina Hale. It was the narrowest margin of victory in the district in more than a decade.
Fast forward two years and because of gerrymandered redistricting, District 5 is nearly unwinnable for Democrats. Their unwillingness to funnel money into the campaign shows the Democratic Party knows it’s a losing battle.
Through the end of June, Spartz’s war chest was overflowing with more than $3 million, according to The Indianapolis Star. Democratic challenger Jeannine Lee Lake, meanwhile, had raised around $11,000.
If it were just District 5, Hoosiers might be able to accept it. But district maps were redrawn statewide by Republicans to almost assure they would continue to maintain the supermajority they’ve held for the past decade in both statehouse chambers.
Rima Shahid, chief executive officer of the nonpartisan advocacy group Women4Change Indiana, told CNHI State Reporter Carson Gerber that the new maps reinforce the impression among many Hoosiers that their votes are meaningless when lines are drawn to assure Republican victories.
Shahid says gerrymandering is one reason Indiana typically has such low voter turnout.
The fact is, Indiana doesn’t have to let the spoils of gerrymandering go to the victorious party. Enlightened states use independent commissions to depoliticize the system and make sure that redistricting follows the fundamentals of contiguous, compact districts to encourage competition and prohibit party favoritism.
Until Indiana adopts such a system, redistricting in Hoosier land will continue to be all about politics and not at all about voter representation.