Religious leaders demand the General Assembly provide more opportunity for public input
Indianapolis, IN— Indiana faith leaders gathered today at the Statehouse chapel to demand that the General Assembly hold multiple statewide public hearings for the public to give input on new district maps or extend the redistricting timeline. Leaders representing a diversity of faith traditions underscored how a democratic process that will shape our elections for the next decade demands the highest levels of public debate and participation, more than one day of public hearings. They argued for a community-driven redistricting process to achieve fair maps drawn in the interest of the people, not the politicians.
“As people of faith, we believe that everyone should have an equal voice, a seat at the table, and an equal say in governance,” said Rev. Patrick Burke of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “Restricting anyone’s ability to have a seat at that table is against the abundant life that God desires for us. Gerrymandering is not a political issue, but a moral issue and we have a moral imperative to ensure we all have equal access to participate in the political process.”
State Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola), chair of the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment, and State Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute), chair of the Senate Committee on Elections are each expected to host a single public meeting to review congressional and state house maps on September 16 and state senate maps on September 27, respectively. One day to provide in-person feedback for proposed maps severely restricts Hoosiers’ opportunity to participate and ensure lawmakers draw fair maps that will hold them accountable to the voters.
“The redistricting process is a moral issue of fairness, equality, and faith for the voters of this state,” said Pastor Beth Henricks of Indianapolis First Friends. “Hoosiers are known for our generous hospitality, and we welcome all views and honor the Divine in each person. I am praying our lawmakers keep this faith in Hoosiers alive and invite voters to help draw fair and equitable maps.”
Legally, new district maps do not have to be finalized until November 15. Last spring, the General Assembly voted to approve moving the redistricting deadline from April 29 to November 15 due to COVID-19-caused delays. Under the current timeline, redistricting will conclude by October 1, meaning there is more than a month available for statewide public hearings. Though the maps are expected to be posted online September 14 and 21, public availability of the maps is meaningless if Hoosiers are not allowed to provide input or speak directly to lawmakers about how the maps were drawn.
“Voting is a sacred right afforded to everyone to exercise our free, conscious choices,” said Imam Michael Saahir of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center. “The health and well-being of our voting process must be maintained on all levels so that the voice of the people remains sacred.”
Last month, droves of Hoosiers attended public redistricting hearings to advocate for a fair redistricting process that includes plenty of opportunities to review new district maps. Following hours of testimony, state legislators on the Elections and Apportionment Committee told the public that there was not enough time for more statewide hearings. No public hearings would lock all voters into political districts with no checks on state legislators who draw racial or partisan gerrymandered maps for their own benefit.
“The Hebrew Bible compels us thirty-six separate times to welcome the stranger,” said Rabbi Brett Krichiver of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. “It is our religious obligation to one another to ensure fairness in public policy, especially those ‘strangers’ who seem different from ourselves – different because of socio-economic status, race, religion, or world-view.”
Last week, All IN for Democracy announced a first-in-the-state community mapping contest that allows Hoosiers to win cash prizes for drawing fair district maps in this year’s redistricting cycle. All IN for Democracy also created the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, made up of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, to demonstrate how a process to draw fair maps can work in Indiana.
“The Church is concerned with redistricting because Catholic social teaching contains an option for the Poor and the Vulnerable,” said Angela Espada, Executive Director of the Indiana Catholic Conference. “When lines are redrawn, we will advocate for the poor and vulnerable so that they are not overlooked.”
The mapping competition and the multi-partisan, citizen-led redistricting commission demonstrate how redistricting can—and should—be conducted in Indiana. These processes allow all Hoosiers to participate in redistricting that results in community-driven maps, rather than racial and partisan gerrymandered maps that only benefit the politicians.
“As a Christian, I truly believe that we are here today to fight for the heart and soul of our democracy,” said Rev. David Greene of Purpose of Life Ministries. “I am excited to see the different groups who have assembled today to take a stand for the drawing of fair maps for Indiana. While we may not be under the same banner, we are truly committed to the same battle for fair maps.”
Since 2015, All IN for Democracy has advocated for a fair redistricting process that transfers power from the politicians to the people.
To view All IN for Democracy’s 2021 Redistricting Report, click here.