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Statehouse Update: Redistricting

With the 2020 U.S. Census coming, time is running out for reform

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The United States Census is conducted once per decade, and the results have enormous consequences for voters in Indiana.

The last Census was conducted in 2010, and the next one is scheduled for 2020. That makes this legislative session extremely important because under the current system, the legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines, and the governor may veto the maps drawn.

Advocates for redistricting reform have been trying unsuccessfully to get a bill through the Statehouse. In 2018, for the second year in a row, Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, killed a redistricting reform bill and House Speaker Brian Bosma, said he was OK with that.

This session, several bills have been introduced in an attempt to introduce some measure of independence from the political whims of the party in the power in choosing their own voters.

Bosma did not make redistricting reform one of his legislative priorities this session.

However, Senate Democrats did, and more than a few Republican colleagues have joined the fight 

House Bill 1011, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, establishes a redistricting commission (commission) to create, hold hearings on, take public comment about, and recommend plans to redraw general assembly districts and congressional districts.

Senate Bill 91, co-authored by Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, and Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute; House Bill 1386, authored by Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City; House Bill 1317, authored by Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis; and Senate Bill 37, authored by Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Andersonall do much the same thing.

Senate Bill 105, co-authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, and Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, establishes redistricting standards for congressional and state legislative districts. It provides that the initial proposed plans for congressional and state legislative districts must comply with the redistricting standards. It allows the general assembly to consider and adopt modifications to the initial proposed plans that deviate from the redistricting standards as long as the reason or reasons for each deviation are publicly explained and documented.

On Jan. 24, the League of Women Voters of Indiana, Common Cause Indiana, Women4Change Indiana Action Fund, Hoosier Environmental Council, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network, Earth Charter Indiana, Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation, and The Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch 3053 all signed onto a letter supporting SB 91 and HB 1011.

“Time is running out for our legislature to act on the leading issue of redistricting reform. If we fail to act in the 2019 session, we may have to wait another 10 years before we have another shot at creating fairer maps for Indiana. Much is at stake for voter and civic involvement,” stated Jesse Kharbanda of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

More than 25 local governments in Indiana have adopted resolutions calling for a citizen-led redistricting commission for Indiana.

“Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah are some of the states that recently enacted redistricting reforms. We have many models to follow—and states like Indiana can otherwise create our own path,” stated Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana.

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Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at rburgess@nuvo.net, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.