Partisan redistricting makes a mockery of the basic principles of democracy. In the session that begins today, the Indiana legislature has the opportunity – actually, the obligation – to take its thumb off the scales of voter equality. Changing demographics rapidly make congressional and legislative districts obsolete. Redistricting, which occurs at the beginning of each decade just after the national census is completed, is a necessity for democracy to function. But in Indiana, the legislature draws up its own legislative voting districts, as well as congressional districts. There are provisions for a redistricting commission, but they never come into play as long as both the House and Senate can agree on new maps within a set time. This has never been a good procedure, but it can be made to work when one party controls each of the two legislative chambers. Both parties, though, have used the system to create unfair advantages over the years. In the redistricting at the beginning of this decade, the GOP did a masterful job of controlling the process. Republicans held both houses, and they took the opportunity to move more Democrats into heavily Democratic districts and more Republicans into districts that had been fairly even.
The supermajorities in this year’s legislature reflect the results, with Republicans holding 40 of 50 Senate seats and 71 of 100 House seats. The GOP also holds seven of the state’s nine congressional seats.
Yes, more Hoosiers have been voting Republican in recent elections, but statewide votes two years ago show a substantial Democratic presence that isn’t reflected in the results from individual districts. President Barack Obama and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg each won about 45 percent of the vote in 2012, and Democrat Joe Donnelly won his statewide contest against Republican Richard Mourdock.
Fairly drawn legislative and congressional districts wouldn’t produce the disproportionate result that Hoosiers saw in the fall election. A better system would discourage unopposed contests (20 House and Senate seats in 2014) and perhaps help Indiana avoid the distinction of having the lowest voter participation in the nation, as it did in November (a shameful 30 percent).
Full Article: Fairer approach | Editorials | Journal Gazette.