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The Journal Gazette

  • Illustration by Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 30, 2017 1:00 am

Editorial

Luck of the draw

Redistricting equality begins with education

Redistricting Reform 101

Citizen activist training

9 a.m. to noon Saturday

Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren,2810 Beacon St., Fort Wayne

RSVP by Thursday by emailing Julia Vaughnat jvaughn@commoncause.org, or by phone,317-925-5780

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David Long, president pro tem of the Indiana Senate, doesn't take kindly to suggestions that Indiana's legislative and congressional districts are gerrymandered. And if you look at the Fort Wayne Republican's own District 16 boundaries, you might agree. It is compact and mostly covers suburban and rural areas of western Allen County and eastern Whitley County. 

But consider Senate District 7 in west-central Indiana. The district includes portions of six counties, carefully splitting with District 22 more-Democratic precincts in Tippecanoe County's Lafayette and West Lafayette. Or look at Senate District 25 in east-central Indiana, drawn to pack Democratic voters in Muncie and Anderson into a single district instead of the two districts they once held.

The districts – drawn and approved by the lawmakers themselves – have given Republicans supermajority status in the General Assembly since 2012, the first election after the last redistricting exercise. And with supermajority status, Hoosiers not only have seen the voices of Democratic lawmakers weakened, they've seen Republicans “slipping down the Breitbart ledge,” as Julia Vaughn of Common CauseIndiana describes the party's shift to the right. More-moderate GOP members like Reps. Kathy Heuer and Rebecca Kubacki were challenged and defeated in primary election contests.

The results have caught Hoosiers' attention, Vaughn said. Voters are unhappy with the glaring conflict of interest posed by lawmakers drawing their own electoral districts. 

In some Democratic-controlled states, the same redistricting abuses occur to that party's advantage.

“The public is not going to be satisfied in 2021 if the legislature is still in charge of redistricting,” she said. “We have so many (Richard) Lugar Republicans in this state – people who believe in moderation. They understand our country deserves to have people who are willing to work together, not just get on social media and throw out soundbites. They see redistricting reform as a way to right the party's ship.”

Hoosiers packed the Statehouse in February to push for redistricting reform. But when a bill to establish an independent redistricting commission went before the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, Chairman Milo Smith, R-Columbus, refused to call it for a vote.

Vaughn and other redistricting proponents aren't giving up. Common Cause Indiana has joined forces with groups across the state to hold redistricting reform workshops. And in Indianapolis, the City-County Council is expected to pass a resolution urging support of comprehensive reform. Former Republican Lt. Gov. John Mutz spoke strongly in support of the measure at a council committee hearing last week. The Indy Chamber and Enterprise Republicans also endorsed the resolution.

“Ten years ago we struggled to have a conversation about redistricting,” Vaughn said. “Now, they are coming out in droves for public meetings. They are willing to give up their Saturday mornings to sit through a three-hour workshop on redistricting.”

Northeast Indiana residents have an opportunity to learn about the effort this Saturday, in a session Vaughn will lead on behalf of the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting. Fort Wayne Area League of Women Voters and People for the Common Good are co-hosts. A strong turnout will show lawmakers how much interest Hoosiers have in fairly drawn electoral districts.