INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An effort to change who is responsible for drawing Indiana’s election maps
is unlikely to gain approval this year after a legislative panel declined to
take a vote on the issue.
legislative districts are drawn by state lawmakers, a process that critics
say is too political. A plan from Republican state Rep. Jerry Torr,
co-authored by Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, would establish an
independent commission to draw the maps, which would still be subject to
approval by the Legislature. Its passage, though, would require Republicans
who currently control the Legislature to cede some control over a process
that can determine whether they are re-elected.
The bill faces a
Tuesday deadline for a panel vote, or else it will be dead for the year. Its
prospects dimmed Wednesday when GOP Rep. Milo Smith refused to allow a vote
in the Elections and Apportionment Committee he chairs. In explaining his
decision, Smith said lawmakers on the panel hadn’t had sufficient time to
prepare amendments to the proposal.
changing how redistricting is done say it’s not shocking incumbent
legislators would oppose the idea, but they expected the measure to at least
get a vote in the House panel.
extremely high levels of support in redistricting reform and the numbers
don’t vary much in terms of partisanship,” said Julia Vaughn, policy
director of Common Cause Indiana. “Outside of the walls of the limestone,
people get it - yet it’s very different inside.”
Bosma said it’s
“unlikely” the proposal will get a committee vote before Tuesday’s deadline.
He had asked that a hearing occur, he said, but left a final decision up to
Smith and other panel members.
“To weigh in
heavily on a bill that is not likely to receive attention in the Senate -
that is the clear message we received - you can only pick so many fights in
a match,” he said.
The proposal is the
culmination of roughly a year of study by a group the Legislature charged
with examining redistricting practices.
Indiana House majorities for most of a 20-year period after they had control
of drawing up districts following the 1990 and 2000 censuses. But
Republicans had control of the Legislature after the 2010 census, and their
drawing of GOP-friendly maps helped them build massive General Assembly
majorities - now 70-30 in the House and 41-9 in the Senate.
majorities allow them to take action even if no Democrats are present and
have been built even as Republicans won the 2010 gubernatorial race with
just under 50 percent of the vote and the 2016 gubernatorial election with
having an independent panel draw election maps could lead to fairer
districts and more competitive races, which could in turn lead to higher
voter turnout. But lawmakers on Smith’s panel, including Republican Rep. Jim
Lucas, appeared to harbor doubts about whether the proposal would violate
the Indiana Constitution.
In a letter
distributed to lawmakers on the panel, two former state Supreme Court
justices, Brent Dickson and Theodore Boehm, wrote they believe the proposal
is consistent with the Indiana Constitution since the Legislature “retains
the ability to approve or disapprove the Commission’s proposed plans.”
Still, to Sen.
Brandt Hershman, who sat on the study committee and doesn’t feel the group
identified a concrete problem, the constitutionality of the proposal is an
“open question.” Attributing Republican supermajorities to gerrymandering,
he said, neglects to take into account significant policy issues.
Vaughn is telling
residents to reach out to Smith, Bosma and other representatives to ask that
the measure receive a vote.
chunk of the electorate feels like they don’t have a voice in the process,”
she said “They feel angry and, right now, they’re channeling that anger into