Indiana is only one year away from the next redistricting session and the threat of gerrymandering still looms high.
Every ten years, legislators in the General Assembly use new census data to draw maps that will determine districts for Congress as well as the state’s House of Representatives and Senate. The problem is, politicians in power often use their majority to create districts that benefit their party, rather than districts that will best represent the will of the people.
Senate Democrats are calling for Indiana to join the 26 other states using independent redistricting commissions, which draw districts with the goal of accurately representing the state’s population, not giving one party an advantage over the other. Sen. Tim Lanane’s Senate Bill (SB) 138 would establish one of these non-partisan commissions for Indiana to help draw congressional as well as state legislature districts beginning next year.
Four Republicans and two Democrats have also signed on to another bill, SB 105, but the Senate Committee on Elections only met twice this year and heard a total of six bills, neither of which were about redistricting reform.
For comparison, the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee heard 21 bills in one day on Tuesday, January 28.
There are two basic ways a district can be gerrymandered. One is by “vote packing” which draws a district tightly around the minority party’s core area(s) of support in order to consolidate their victory to only one district with a large margin, as opposed to creating several, possibly competitive districts. Another method is by splitting the core base of the minority party into multiple districts in order to dilute their influence.
The last time Indiana legislators re-drew Congressional districts was in 2011 using population data from the 2010 U.S. Census, and the Republicans’ majority redrew voting districts to favor their party. The next year, 2012, Republicans ended up with 78% of the state’s Congressional districts, despite winning less than 53% of the statewide popular vote that year.
The Republican majority is now poised to do the same thing next year, unless a non-partisan redistricting commission is established.
Gerrymandering is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. All over the country, both parties have used it to boost party strength. The time has come for our legislators to reach across the aisle and establish non-partisan redistricting commissions, because when candidates compete, voters win.