WEBB: TOURING OUR GERRYMANDERED DISTRICT
Webb walked with people taking part in the state’s first Gerrymander Meander
by Jon Webb, email@example.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
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
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
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.
|VANESSA OTERO'S MEDIA ANALYSIS CHART
ETHRIDGE: DECIPHERING 'FAKE NEWS'
Ten days before Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, I was invited by the
League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana to talk with them, at their March meeting, about "fake news."
In early January, "fake news" seemed pretty simple: Stories that someone
made up, posted on a purchased but official-sounding website, and then collected advertising money and created havoc nationwide with
thousands of views.
Perhaps the best example was the story about
"The Comet Ping Pong," a pizza place in a nice neighborhood in Washington DC. The "story," as reported,
linked Hillary Clinton and those close to her to running a child sex slave ring out of the restaurant.
You would think that would be jump out to readers as being a false narrative. Yet
a 28-year-old man from North Carolina took it to heart and after "reading up on it" on the Internet drove 350 miles
to our nation's capital, took a weapon into the restaurant and fired it. No one was injured in his stated attempt to "rescue
children;" in subsequent interviews, he did not disavow the stories that he heard from "word-of-mouth" and
confirmed on the Internet.
That seemed a blatant example of
"fake news," again a term you hate to use. If it's news, it isn't fake. If it's fake, it isn't news.
Yet from that beginning, and since the likely efforts by Russia to influence our
election by planting stories of its own, "fake news" has become a political statement. If a politician, from a local
party chief to the president of the United States, does not like or agree with a story, they brand it as "fake."
And, more than ever, they are aiming the charges at legitimate news organizations, both local and national, not web sites
that pop up in favor of certain causes.
Thus the conversation
was launched over lunch on March 23 at McCollough Library on Evansville's East Side. The room was surprisingly, and somewhat
frighteningly, full, with around 75 residents and readers eager to listen and, more importantly, share their thoughts. That
always helps when you're far from the smartest person in the room, and when you write -- not talk -- for a living...
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