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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 05, 2018 1:00 am

General assembly

District maps low on GOP's agenda

Civic groups pushing for change in law

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Civic groups continue to push a redesign of Indiana's redistricting process, though its chances are slim again this year.

A coalition supporting an independent redistricting commission greeted lawmakers at the Statehouse on Wednesday with doughnuts and important facts.

“I think we feel pretty hopeful,” Susan Frick, of Indianapolis, said. “It's time for people to begin selecting their legislators and not legislators selecting their voters.”

She is a member of Women 4 Change Indiana, while her husband volunteers for the ACLU of Indiana. Both are working for a bipartisan panel to draw districts without political considerations such as voting patterns and incumbent residency.

A measure has passed the House before and stalled in the Senate. But the most vocal opponent in the state Senate – Brandt Hershman – has resigned.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, didn't seem enthusiastic about prospects for the bill Thursday – noting not many lawmakers have been through a redistricting process and don't know how it feels to be on both sides.

“There are some of us that have been around long enough to see worm turn both ways on this,” he said. “Honestly, I think it would have a tough time getting out of the House.”

Some Republicans aren't convinced there is a problem while most Democrats believe the districts have been drawn in a way to limit competitiveness, which also has pushed down voter participation.

The next redistricting will happen in 2021 after the 2020 census. Under multiple proposals filed in both the House and Senate, an independent commission would draw the districts instead of lawmakers, but the General Assembly would still have to approve them because of a requirement in the Indiana Constitution.

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said he is only having two meetings in the first half of the session and doubts redistricting will be included.

That's because he still isn't sure what criteria make a good map or bad map and would prefer to start there instead of focusing on who crafts the map.

 nkelly@jg.net