Redistricting reform advocates rally at Indiana Statehouse | News

INDIANAPOLIS — Supporters of legislative redistricting reform vowed to tackle the issue during the next Indiana General Assembly as about 90 people gathered for a rally Monday at the Statehouse.

“We need Hoosiers in every corner of the state to talk about this issue, raise their voices up and demand that we, your representatives, strengthen our democracy by ending gerrymandering,” said State Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis.

Currently, the Indiana Legislature conducts redistricting at the start of each decade, typically based on an advisory commission’s recommendations. Critics say the lines are drawn to support political parties.

During committee hearings in 2016, testimony indicated that in 2012, 54 percent of Indiana voters backed Democrat Barack Obama for president. Yet, two years later, just 10 of the 50 state senators were Democrats, and the Indiana House had 29 Democrats and 71 Republicans. Some redistricting reformers point to those numbers as evidence that legislative districts are not drawn fairly.

Rally attendees Monday carried signs reading “Competition is good for business and elections” and “Fair District, Fair Elections.”

At the rally was a birthday cake commemorating the 273rd birthday of Elbridge Gerry, the late Massachusetts politician who drew boundaries based on partisan politics and after whom the term “gerrymander” was coined.

“We’re here today to remember Gerry’s legacy, recognize it … and make 2018 the session for redistricting reform in Indiana,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana.

The rally was sponsored by Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters.

The issue, many at the rally said, is nonpartisan.

“Both parties are guilty of gerrymandering when given the opportunity. In fact it’s human nature to maximize the power you’re given,” Hamilton said. “History tells us that political parties should never have the power to pick their voters. It’s simply undemocratic.”

An interim committee studied redistricting for more than a year, yielding two bills that languished without hearings in the recent Indiana General Assembly. The bills proposed creating a nonpartisan commission to redraw legislative boundaries.

Supporters in Indiana have lately pointed to the set-up in California, where a redistricting commission includes five Democrats, five Republicans and four members who do not belong to either of the two dominant parties.