DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT: REDISTRICTING
Democracy is not a spectator sport. This has been the motto of the League of Women Voters and one of the reasons we
have chosen to focus on the issue of redistricting for the remainder of this decade.
Over and over we hear people say “My vote doesn’t matter/count” or “Why
should I vote, no one represents my views/concerns.” Why do so many voters believe these things – and more
importantly, are they right? The current redistricting process may be at fault. Redistricting occurs by law every 10
years following the census. It has been the privilege of whichever party holds the power in most state legislatures, including
Indiana. (Some exceptions exist in Western states such as Arizona and California where the constitutions allow for citizen
goal of redistricting is to ensure the “one person, one vote” requirement of the US Constitution’s equal
protection guarantee, as upheld by the 1960’s Supreme Court. However, redistricting has become an exercise in
politicians selecting their constituents (Gerrymandering) rather than districts in which voters have meaningful choices when
electing their representatives. Legislators carve out districts that will ensure the re-election of incumbents. This
has resulted in discouraging individuals from running for office and parties from slating a candidate in such districts, i.e.,
an increasing number of uncontested elections.
Additionally, voter turnout has been decreasing in both primary and general elections. In Indiana, in the
2014 General Election for example, the average voter turnout was 30 percent. (In the 1990 General Election turnout was
56.7percent.) Primary and Off Year election turnouts tended to be even lower. Meaningful competition is more likely
to excite the electorate and lead to a larger turnout resulting in the election of representatives who represent different
viewpoints but will work together to reach reasonable compromise in doing the community’s business.
The 2015 Indiana General Assembly voted to support
the formation of a Redistricting Study Committee, making good on a promise made during the 2014 session. So far only
a few members have been appointed to this committee. We urge the timely appointment of remaining members with the intent
to have a knowledgeable, diverse, and impartial committee that has sufficient time to generate meaningful redistricting guidelines
and a transparent redistricting system.
In Indiana the state constitution charges the legislature with the final task of redistricting but doesn’t
specify how it is to be accomplished. Serious consideration of the recommendations of the Redistricting Study Committee
could lead to more competitive and meaningful elections with greater voter participation, i.e., a truly democratic election
Signed by the Board of the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana:
Toni Beumer, Meg Connolly, Roberta Heiman, Pam Locker, Deborah Schade, Lezlie Simmons, and Kathy Solecki