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REDISTRICTING RESOURCES

 
Earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford  failed to demonstrate standing and sent the case back to the district court to give the plaintiffs a chance to demonstrate that they have suffered “concrete and particularized injuries”. In Benisek v. Lamone, the court also sent the case back to the lower courts without ruling on the merits.  
 
Both decisions mean that voters in Maryland and Wisconsin will once again be forced to participate in an election under an unconstitutional map. However, Leagues continue to gain momentum on redistricting, including in Pennsylvania where the League is working for a plan 'free from partisan hijacking' and in North Carolina where we could see the next big legal battle on gerrymandering.   

Check out A Conversation on Redistricting with Ruth Greenwood and Nick Stephanopoulos, originally broadcast live at our National Convention on June 28. Greenwood served on the legal team for the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford and Stephanopoulos created the Efficiency Gap Theory, which is the standard the court considered in the Gill v. Whitford case. Both are co-council for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina in the partisan gerrymandering case, LWV v. Rucho
 
League of Women Voters of the United States July 1, 2018 

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SB326 Killed in House But the Struggle Will Continue

The redistricting standards bill that passed the Indiana State Senate in late January, SB326, died when it failed to get a hearing in the House Elections Committee.  Committee Chairman Milo Smith claimed that Indiana must wait to move on this modest reform effort until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering and his statement was backed up by the Speaker of the House.  Both legislators are simply making excuses -- if anything all the recent legal activity surrounding partisan gerrymandering should spur Indiana to act -- because the states that aren't getting sued are the ones with citizens' redistricting commissions. 
 
While it is disappointing that SB326 did not make it through the process this year we should take some satisfaction from passing a redistricting reform bill through the Indiana Senate - that is no small accomplishment and something some folks believed would never happen. 
 
And, we also were successful in getting Senate Concurrent Resolution 30 signed.  SCR 30 calls for a summer study to examine redistricting issues, including implications from the U.S. Supreme Court case.  The study committee will be a useful tool to organize around and help us continue to keep pressure on state lawmakers.  
 
To be successful in 2019 we need to make redistricting reform one of the top issues in state legislative campaigns this fall.  We'll be working on a candidate survey and we'll need everyone's help in getting candidates to respond.  So stay tuned, our coalition will be meeting soon after the session adjourns to regroup and formulate a plan for moving forward. 
 
You can help by writing a letter to the editor about the demise of SB326 and challenging lawmakers to take a stand against partisan gerrymandering. 
 
Thanks for everything you are doing to move redistricting reform forward.  We've come a long way and have farther to go so remember to pace yourself.  This is a marathon and not a sprint.
 
ALL IN FOR DEMOCRACY (The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting)  March 2018
 
 

SAMPLE LETTER TO LEGISLATORS

 
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

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DOWNLOAD A REDISTRICTING BROCHURE

WEBB: TOURING OUR GERRYMANDERED DISTRICT 
Jon Webb walked with people taking part in the state’s first Gerrymander Meander
 
by Jon Webb, jon.webb@courierpress.com  published in the Evansville Courier & Press July 11, 2017
  
Julia Vaughn stood in front a packed conference room at St. Lucas United Church of Christ, talking about the birthday boy.  “Elbridge Gerry should be remembered as an American patriot,” she said. “But he isn’t.”
 
The signer of the Declaration of Independence / vice president / powdered-wig enthusiast is the namesake for “gerrymandering”: the act of slicing political districts into politically advantageous shapes. He was born July 17, 1744, and the crowd at UCC gathered on Monday for two reasons: to kind-of ironically honor his birthday, and to protest the very thing that made him famous.  hey even had cake and punch.

Several dozen folks – from older women to chatty kids -- took part in the state’s first Gerrymander Meander, put on by the League of Women Voters. From St. Lucas, volunteers walked through Jimtown in 90-degree heat, sweat stains darkening t-shirts that advocated for a fair electoral system.

Vaughn, the policy director for Common Cause Indiana, drove from Indianapolis for the event. She’ll turn up in Bloomington for another Meander on Saturday, all leading to a “big rally” at the statehouse on July 17. She worked with local League of Women Voters reps Kathy Solecki and Ann Ennis to put the shindig together.

She said that while the latest batch of redistricting gave Republicans a massive advantage in the state legislature, the issue itself is nonpartisan. The majority party in Indiana reworks districts after each census.

“Both parties are guilty of gerrymandering. Democrats have done it, Republicans have done it,” she said. “It just so happened that in 2011, Republicans, for the first time in 20 years, controlled the entire process because they controlled both chambers. And you can see the evidence of that in election results.” 
 
Republicans boast 70 of the 100 seats in the House. Before the last redistricting, Democrats controlled the House eight out of 10 years between 2000 and 2010. And in the Senate, well, “blood bath” only does it justice if the bather is an African elephant. As of this year, the GOP controls 41 of the 50 seats.
 
“Redistricting reform won’t turn a red state blue or turn a blue state red. But what it will do is more clearly represent the will of the voters,” she said. “We are a Republican state, but we’re not an 80 percent Republican state.”

After Vaughn’s talk, walkers flooded the jagged sidewalks of Jimtown. Solecki seemed to be everywhere, pointing out gnarly bulges in the concrete and asking everyone to watch their step.  On Baker Avenue, a shirtless fellow twinkling with sweat noticed the large group carrying bright neon signs and stepped down from his porch.

“What are you all doing?” he asked.
“Gerrymandering!” a walker answered.
“Oh,” he said.

 

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