INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An Indiana Senate panel advanced a bill Monday that would set criteria for
redrawing electoral districts. But the measure approved on an 8-0 vote falls
far short of a comprehensive redistricting overhaul that good government
groups have sought for years. Senate Elections Committee Chairman Greg
Walker acknowledged his bill was a “baby step,” though the Columbus
Republican said it still moves the conversation forward.
legislative and congressional districts are currently drawn to favor
Republicans. That’s because the Legislature, which oversees the
once-in-a-decade effort that comes after the census, is in GOP control. In
the past, when Democrats had more power, the maps tilted in their favor.
according to advocates, who argue that such a process allows lawmakers to
pick and choose their voters, rather than voters picking and choosing their
elected officials. That can lead to voter apathy and a limited turnout on
election day, according to advocates.
outlines a series of guidelines. Under the measure, districts should be
drawn “to the extent possible” in ways that avoid splitting pockets of
voters with common cultural, ethnic, political, or socio economic interests.
They should also be drawn compactly and in ways that avoid splitting
existing boundaries set by local governments.
There is, however,
a provision that allows lawmakers to deviate from the standards when working
on the maps, so long as an explanation is given.
noted the measure still allows lawmakers to control the process, which they
likened to baseball players calling their own games instead of umpires. They
are pushing for an independent commission to handle that task.
“We hope there
would be some neutral body that would develop the standards and review the
maps,” said Debbie Asberry of the League of Women Voters of Indianapolis.
A number of
lawmakers support a larger overhaul of the redistricting process, including
House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican. Bosma said he
remembers what it was like to be in the minority.
from influential lawmakers, past legislation on the issue has failed to
advance. Bosma said many GOP House members were elected as Republicans
stormed to power and have never experienced being in the minority.
Still to be seen is
how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on several redistricting cases from
other states that it’s currently considering.