Redistricting is the process of redrawing district maps after the census to equalize the populations of congressional and legislative districts. Gerrymandering is the act of rigging the districts to sway the outcome of the election toward the party in power.
How has gerrymandering impacted Indiana?
- Indiana is one of the 44 states that put the state legislature in charge of redistricting. Since legislators draw the district maps, politicians gerrymander districts to choose voters they already know will vote for them and exclude those who will vote against them.
- Communities of interest, including cities, counties, school districts, and neighborhoods are often divided by district lines, making it difficult for those citizens to be heard. This can lead to a community’s interests being ignored or underserved.
- When districts are lopsided from a partisan perspective it creates polarization, with candidates appealing to the fringes instead of the middle. Compromise becomes a dirty word; there is no reward for consensus building.
- In 2014, 54 of the 125 candidates for the Indiana House and Senate had no opponents. As a result, Indiana’s voter turnout rate was the lowest in the country at 28%.
- In 2016, 35 of the 125 candidates for the Indiana House and Senate had no opponents. In 2018, 37 out of 125 seats were unchallenged.
- On average from 2010 to 2014, about 42% of Indiana’s state legislative candidates ran unchallenged by the opposite party. When politicians don't have competition at the ballot box, Hoosiers cannot be fairly represented.
After the 2020 census is conducted, new districts for Congress and the Indiana state legislature will be drawn during the 2021 legislative session. Sadly, fair redistricting standards will not be in place to govern the map-drawing in 2021, so Hoosiers will be stuck with gerrymandered districts for another decade.
What Indiana’s redistricting standards should look like:
- Map-drawing criteria should include equal population, respect for the Voting Rights Act, compactness, contiguity, and political competition.
- Special consideration should be given to identifying communities of interest and care should be taken to ensure that district lines do not divide communities or inhibit their ability to make their voices heard.
- The redistricting process must be open and transparent, with opportunities for citizens to impact the map-drawing throughout.
- The public should have access to map-drawing software and all tools available to the official map drafters so they can submit their own redistricting proposals.
What Indiana’s redistricting commission should look like:
- The Indiana General Assembly should create a nine member citizen redistricting commission composed of Republicans, Democrats, and voters who are neither Republican nor Democrat.
- Any qualified Hoosier should be able submit an application to serve via a public selection process conducted by public universities in the state.
- Legislative leaders should choose finalists from the public submissions, but a random draw would determine the commission membership.
- Commission members must be ethnically, geographically, and gender diverse.
During the 2020 Indiana General Assembly, we worked with former Senator John Ruckelshaus (R - Indianapolis) on legislation to create a bipartisan citizens redistricting commission that would control the redistricting process and produce Congressional and state legislative maps that the General Assembly would vote up or down to adopt. We thought we had a real shot to get redistricting reform passed in 2020, but we were wrong. Sadly, despite the significant number of phone calls and emails they received from Hoosiers across Indiana, Sen. Walker, Chair of the Senate Elections Committee, refused to hear any of the redistricting reform bills in his committee, and Rep. Wesco, Chair of the House Elections Committee, ignored similar bills in his committee.