Redistricting reform stalls in Senate

Laura McPhee

A measure to redraw Indiana's congressional and legislative voting districts has stalled in the state Senate.

HB 1009 would establish a bi-partisan Redistricting Commission to create districts based on population and natural boundaries, with an emphasis on keeping communities intact within voting districts.

The bill aims to reform Indiana's election process and put an end to the process known as gerrymandering - establishing voting districts based on what is advantageous for one candidate or political party. The practice is most often associated with incumbents who use their time in office to rewrite election laws and draw voting districts to match their popularity rather than geographic communities.

Members of the Redistricting Commission would be appointed by four elected officials (Republican leader from the House of Representatives; Democrat leader from the House of Representatives; Republican Leader from the Senate; Democrat from the Senate). A fifth member will be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.

HB 1009 also stipulates that members of the commission cannot be lobbyists, lawmakers, or any individual with a direct stake in the redistricting process. The commission would be required to hold public hearings and take public comment before making any redistricting recommendations.

Predictably, many lawmakers oppose the reform.

The bill passed in the House of Representatives with all Republicans voting in favor of it, while all but three Democrats voted in opposition.

In the Senate, however, it is the Republicans who seem to be preventing the bill from receiving an up or down vote on the floor.

Senate President Robert Garton (R) said he is "unenthused" about the bill.

"Politics is still going to play a part no matter what kind of commission you appoint," Garton believes.

But his comments contradict those of Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, a co-author of the bill.

"There is little this body does that's more important than drawing legislative maps," according to the Speaker.

"When you look at the bizarre shape of the districts, you can see just how stilted the process is."

Though the bill has been assigned to the Senate Elections Committee, it has yet to receive a hearing, a required step before it can go to the Senate for a full vote. A hearing scheduled for February 20 was cancelled, reportedly due to back room haggling over amendments to the bill.

American Values Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization working for reform to Indiana's election process, including re-districting. The group's website provides analysis of HB 1009, profiles of similar reform in other states, and up to date information on the status of the bill in our General Assembly, including when (or if) a public hearing is scheduled by the Senate Election Committee.


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