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LETTER: We need redistricting reform



Every 10 years a census decides how many Representatives each state can send to Congress. States with more than one Representative sort their voters into various legislative districts, and all do the same with their own legislatures.

This redistricting, left to state legislators, opens us to partisan gerrymandering, whereby the dominant party draws the new district maps to its political advantage by packing opposition voters into a few districts while spreading its own among more districts. 

That way the opposition scores big wins in its handful of districts, while you score smaller wins in many more. No dominant party is innocent of this age-old trick, but computer-savvy operatives have made it a mortal threat to representative government. Many states have responded by establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions closed to political office holders.  

The threat is here. In the 2012 races for the Indiana Assembly, Democratic candidates received 999,217 votes, Republicans 1,342,237 – 43 percent and 57 percent respectively. But Democrats won only 31 percent of those seats instead of the 43 percent they should have received under the principle of representative government. The same pattern appears in subsequent elections for all three bodies elected by multiple districts: Congress and the Indiana Assembly, with nine, 50, and 100 districts respectively.

Our legislators have always scuttled bills for redistricting reform, but now comes another chance. Senate Bill 105 has passed the Senate, but languishes now in the House Elections Committee. SB105 would establish redistricting standards for congressional and state legislative districts, and let the General Assembly consider modifications to any parts of the initial plans that violate those standards. SB105 is less than we need, but a step in the right direction.  

Before April 11, please phone 317-232-9677 or e-mail h88@iga.in.gov House Speaker Brian Bosma, who has favored such bills in the past, and ask him to request that the Chairman of the House Elections Committee, Representative Tim Wesco, put SB105 on the agenda. If not heard by April 11, the bill dies.

The hard fact is that our 2020 census will produce a new district map in 2021 that will likely last another 10 years. Many states, by citizen referenda, have recently scrapped their partisan procedures in favor of citizen redistricting commissions. Unfortunately, the Indiana constitution makes no provision for such referenda. The time to impress our legislators with strong public sentiment for redistricting reform is right now, by personal contact with our legislators.

James Allison, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, Indiana University-Bloomington


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