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TAKE ACTION ON GERRYMANDERING AND REDISTRICTING
 
SB326 Answers Half the Reform Question

Senate Bill 326 (to create a set of redistricting standards that legislators would have to follow when they draw districts) is now in the House in the hands of the Elections and Apportionment Committee.  The bill was scheduled to be discussed at the February 21st committee meeting, but it is currently NOT ON THEIR AGENDA.  Please urge your State Representative to push for a hearing on this bill.
 
It had passed unanimously out of the Senate Elections Committee on January 22nd and passed its third reading on February 5 with 42 yeas and only 6 nays. On 2nd reading there was an attempt by Democratic Senator Tim Lanane to amend SB326 with language that would have created a citizens redistricting commission based on the language from the study committee but that amendment failed on a party line vote.  

While we are disappointed that SB159, Senator Ruckelsahus' bill to create both a redistricting commission and put redistricting standards in statute. did not receive a hearing, we have listened closely to Senator Walker and believe his advice on taking an incremental approach to reform is the right path.  Because of all the work by activists across the state, we have built more support for redistricting reform inside the State House.  But, we probably don't have a majority in each chamber on our side yet.  If we can get SB326 passed this year, we can come back in 2019 and finish the job by passing legislation to create a redistricting commission. We are also expecting the Supreme Court to hand down the decision in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case by mid-February.  If the Wisconsin districts are thrown out as unconstitutional gerrymanders we could get a nice boost of momentum for strengthening the bill in the House.  We'll see what the weeks ahead bring - stay tuned.

Another Summer Study?

Senator Walker is also carrying SCR30 which calls for a summer study of redistricting issues and in particular, objective methods that have been developed to identify partisan gerrymandering.  We welcome the opportunity to further discuss redistricting issues under the auspices of a legislative study committee.
 
Here's How You Can Help
If you haven't contacted your Representatibe yet, do so asap.  Tell them that SB326 is a good start on redistricting reform and you want them to support it.  Let them know that this discussion must continue next year and include answering the question of who draws the maps.  
 
We also need letters to the editor about SB326.  Let readers know this bill is a step in the right direction but that the General Assembly must continue working on redistricting reform.  Let's continue building support for a citizens redistricting commission to draw maps in 2021. 

And finally, don't miss any opportunities to ask your legislators in public whether or not they support redistricting reform. 
 
2/21/18 

 
An LWVSWIN resolution calling for an independent redistricting commission in Indiana was passed by the Evansville City Council on 9/11/17. The Vanderburgh County Commissioners passed a similar resolution on 10/3/17.

 

CLICK FOR A PDF OF REDISTRICTING RESOLUTION

CLICK FOR A PDF OF THE COUNTY REDISTRICTING RESOLUTION

 

REDISTRICTING HEADLINES

 

Re-Districting Reform Event with a Twist:

Gerrymander Meander 2017

 

WHO:  League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana and St. Lucas UCC invited the local community of all ages, races, ethnicities, creeds, and genders to learn about and improve the power of a vote.

 

WHAT:  Options including taking a 2.1 mile “meander” along cthe hoppy boundary of IN House Districts 77 and 78; or remaining at St. Lucas Church to learn more about how Indiana district lines are drawn for elections. 

 

WHEN:   Monday, July 10 from 6:00-8:00 pm

 

WHERE:  St. Lucas UCC, 33 W Virginia St., Evansville.

 

WHY:  Indiana state voting district rules allow legislators in power to draw voting districts.  Hundreds of groups and thousands of people around the state are pushing for non-partisan district mapping.

This event raises awareness on the topic.

 

And More WHY:   Elbridge Gerry – the dubious and infamous father of Gerry-mandering was born in July.  We walked in his dust.

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Letter to the Evansville C&P Editor: Keep redistricting hopes alive (published in the Evansville Courier February 24, 2017)

Citizens plan to continue to fight for an Independent, nonpartisan Redistricting Commission in Indiana and to make the 2018 session of the Indiana legislature a referendum on redistricting reform.

Many districts around the state are non-competitive.  Often our citizens do not have a true choice of candidates, either within or between parties.

In Indiana The League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens Action Coalition, Enterprise Republicans, Women 4 Change, Friends Committee on Legislation, and others, are committed to helping ensure that redistricting is done in a non-partisan, fair, and transparent way.  In addition to the cities and counties in Indiana that have passed resolutions endorsing redistricting reform, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed the resolution for redistricting reform. 

Indiana House Bill 1014 was the redistricting reform bill (co-sponsored by Speaker Brian Bosma (R) and Rep. Jerry Torr (R) that followed recommendations of the Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting Reform which met during 2016.  As reported in a Courier Press article 2-20-17, HB1014 was heard in committee on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 but not brought to the floor for a vote.  What is encouraging is that a committee member who had been unsure about the bill indicated that the great citizen support he witnessed led to a decision to support it, had a vote been held.  Were others willing to support the bill also?  We have been deprived of knowing how OUR representatives would have voted.

We encourage you to stay informed and to talk with both your Indiana House and Senate legislators to encourage their support for legislation establishing a nonpartisan redistricting commission during the 2018 legislative session.

from Meg Connolly, Chairperson of the Redistricting Committee of the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana

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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 redistricting committees).  

The 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 process.  

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