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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 02, 2017 1:00 am

Resurrecting redistricting reform

Among the unfinished business of this year's General Assembly session is one particularly vexing failure on redistricting.

The long-overdue reform plan didn't simply die; the bill – which was assigned to the Committee on Elections and Apportionment – was killed. Committee chair Rep. Milo Smith blocked a vote, saying the committee had insufficient time to prepare amendments to the proposal.

That's a real shame, and a real loss for the state, which badly needs a change in the way redistricting is done. Currently, the process is handled by the state Senate and Indiana House after the U.S. census tallies the state's population.

Over the years, both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of a system that gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts. The resulting maps make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive. The real losers are the voters, whose role in the political process has been reduced.

No wonder that the nonpartisan, nonprofit FairVote calls redistricting a “blood sport” that allows incumbent politicians to “choose their voters before the voters choose them.”

Common Cause Indiana's Julia Vaughn, who's helped lead the charge for redistricting reform, says advocates will continue pushing for redistricting reform in the next legislative session. And perhaps such a bill will fare better in a session when legislators aren't also considering such heavy lifts as a budget and road funding.

But reform won't come easily where legislators have grown comfortable with a system that gives them and their party an unfair advantage. This is where voters come in. Changing the system and restoring public faith in the electoral process won't happen unless the public demands it. That means letting your state representatives and senators know that you support redistricting reform – and that they should, too.

– South Bend Tribune