Indianapolis Star (Op-Ed): Indiana’s redistricting was far from transparent. But one thing is crystal clear
Indianapolis Star (Op-Ed): Indiana's redistricting was far from transparent. But one thing is crystal clear
Seventeen days. That’s all the time and consideration the General Assembly gave to this year’s redistricting process. Not only was this year’s rushed process highly partisan, it was done almost entirely behind closed doors with little input from the voters.
Hoosiers deserve better.
When it comes to process, transparency, and public participation, this year’s redistricting process made clear that it’s time to give serious consideration to a citizens redistricting commission in 2022.
Even before state leaders kicked off this year’s redistricting cycle, there was reason for a healthy dose of skepticism. In July, leaked details of state leaders’ meeting revealed they were hatching a plan to fast-track the redistricting process to be completed in a matter of weeks, despite advocates repeated calls for the legislature to share details with the public.
Not only did the General Assembly want to draw new voting districts with little to no public input, they wanted to do it in a highly-partisan process done mostly in secret. In August, it was reported that the Indiana General Assembly had used taxpayer dollars to hire a national political operative to influence our redistricting process.
This partisan operative, Jason Torchinsky, was responsible for the national Republican party’s strategy to protect incumbents from losing re-election across the country. And now he was going to be the chief architect of a process here in Indiana meant to provide free and fair elections for every Hoosier, regardless of political affiliation.
And although redistricting determines our voting power for the next 10 years, voters had few opportunities to have any say. The only public hearings afforded to voters outside Indianapolis were held before maps were drawn. The three days of hearings at the State House were scheduled during traditional working hours, like 10 a.m., making it difficult for as many Hoosiers as possible to participate in this important democratic process.
Despite the difficulties, dedicated Hoosiers turned out in full force to demand a fair, transparent, and participatory process. Our ask was simple: schedule statewide hearings that allow all Hoosier voices to be heard and allow us to view, and comment on draft maps, and understand how and why they were drawn before they are approved. None of those asks were met.
And just like that, gerrymandered maps that placed the interests of the politicians ahead of the voters for the next decade were signed into law without any healthy debate.
Understanding that no one knows our communities better than us, the ICRC held the state’s first community mapping competition that invited voters to draw maps. The ICRIC received more than 60 submissions and when measured against the legislature’s maps, the winning maps did a better job of drawing fair, competitive election districts. The process was proof that a community-led process could lead to fair maps that prioritizes the needs of our communities, not the interests of the politicians.
The ICRC’s process proved that Hoosiers can successfully draw fair maps that hold our leaders accountable to deliver the resources we deserve in a fairer, more transparent, and more participatory process than the General Assembly’s flawed process.
Redistricting that takes place behind closed doors and shuts out the voters will never serve the voters’ interests. But without reform, we are bound to repeat this process in another 10 years. That’s why it’s time we stop allowing the politicians to choose their own voters and instead put map drawing power into the hands of the voters.
It’s time to move forward with an official Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
We encourage all voters to contact their state representative and state senator and urge their support for legislation in 2022 to create a Citizens Redistricting Commission. You can find contact information for your legislators at iga.in.gov.
Julia Vaughn is executive director of Common Cause Indiana.