Indiana lawmakers have the perfect opportunity before them to reform the redistricting process, to make for more open and fair elections. A recent federal court ruling should serve as a nudge to take that opportunity. Redistricting reform is long overdue in the Hoosier state, given that the current system — which gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts — has resulted in maps that make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive. Both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of this system over the years, with the voters, whose role in political process has been reduced, coming up the big losers. Small wonder that the nonpartisan nonprofit FairVote calls redistricting a “blood sport” that allows incumbent politicians to “choose their voters before the voters choose them.”
Of course, partisan gerrymandering — drawing district lines to favor one political party over another — is a national problem. Earlier this month, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s congressional map and ordered the state’s General Assembly to come up with a substitute. The decision was the first striking down of a congressional map, as opposed to a state legislative map, on the grounds that it was rigged in favor of a particular political party.
Indiana legislators could head off any future challenges to its maps this session. Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana, a leading advocate for redistricting reform, warns that if legislators fail to act on reforms this year, they should expect a legal challenge to new maps in 2021.