Making Democracy Work

Redistricting Reform

Make every vote count!

Protecting the right of every citizen to vote is indivisibly part of the League's basic purpose. LWVUS 1982: voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. Redistricting is the process used by government bodies each decade to redraw the boundaries of electoral districts following each U.S. Census. In Indiana, the General Assembly draws the United States Congress and the General Assembly district maps. Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing districts to benefit a particular party or candidate. Both Democrats and Republicans engage in gerrymandering; the party in power draws the maps.

LWV Position on Redistricting--National, State, and Local

In 2005, the national Board affirmed that Leagues at all levels may take action under LWVUS positions relating to redistricting. Using the positions on "Apportionment," "Citizen's Right to Vote," and "Congress," Leagues should work to achieve three goals consistent with those positions:
  • Congressional districts and government legislative bodies should be apportioned substantially on population ("one person, one vote").
  • Redistricting should not dilute the effective representation of minority citizens.
  • Efforts that attempt or result in partisan gerrymandering should be opposed. Gerrymandered districts undermine the basic concept of one person, one vote.

Indiana restudied its positions on Redistricting in 2012-2013. The position was expanded and adopted by the LWVIN Board of Directors in July, 2013: An independent nonpartisan commission should determine voting districts in the state of Indiana. A commission should be constituted so as to preclude electoral benefit to any individual or political party.

Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting (ICIR)

In 2013 the LWVIN partnered with Common Cause Indiana to create a state wide coalition, Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting (ICIR) calling for real redistricting reform in Indiana. The coalition partners include: Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens Action Coalition, ACLU, NAACP, Indiana Farmers Union, Jobs for Justice and Moral Mondays.

WHY WE NEED REFORM

  • Our current system allows legislators to choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their legislators on Election Day. While population requirements must be met, lines deliberately include or exclude groups of voters based on political affiliation.
  • Gerrymandered districts undermine the basic concept of one person, one vote and make it more difficult to hold our elected officials accountable.
  • Both at Congressional and state legislative levels, gerrymandering has had a negative effect on the number of competitive districts.
  • Non-competitive elections negatively affect voter turnout, already a big problem in Indiana.
  • With a lack of competition comes polarization.
  • When legislators draw the lines, the process is conducted behind closed doors and is not transparent. The lack of transparency decreases public trust in the process.

Conflict of Interest

Indiana's current system of having legislators draw district maps creates the ultimate conflict of interest. Because the process is highly partisan, it is unrealistic to expect politicians not to exploit it for political advantage. Both Democrats and Republicans engage in gerrymandering; the party in power draws the maps.

Competitive Districts

Both at Congressional and state legislative levels, gerrymandering has had a negative effect on the number of competitive districts. In 2014, 44 out of 100 candidates for the Indiana House and 10 of the 25 candidates for the state Senate had no opponents.

Of incumbents in the 2016 primaries, 81.4% of the democrats and 78.6% of the Republicans were unopposed.

Indiana candidates unopposed in November General Elections have increased since 2010: 2010 32.7%, 2012 38.3%, 2014 43%, and 2016 41.8%.

Accountability to Voters

With a lack of competition comes polarization. Creation of "safe" gerrymandered districts often results in the election of candidates who are at the ideological edges of their party and who feel little commitment to respond to the concerns of all their constituents. Instead, they may focus on pleasing certain interest groups.

Voter Turnout

Non-competitive elections negatively affect voter turnout--already a big problem in Indiana. According to the 2014 Civic Health Index, Indiana was last in the nation with a 28% voter turnout.

Transparency

When legislators draw the lines, the process is conducted behind closed doors and is not transparent. The lack of transparency decreases public trust in the process.

ICIR asserts Transparency is of the utmost importance. All meetings of the commission should be public, and maps, records, transcripts and data should be available to the public. Adequate opportunities for public hearings should be provided, including review of the final plan.

BENEFITS OF REDISTRICTING REFORM

Reclaiming our democracy!

Restoring confidence in our government

  • One person, one vote
  • Greater voter participation
  • More equitable representation
  • Greater accountability of elected officials to their constituents
  • Encourage others to run for office

Redistricting Resources

LWVIN's policy position on redistricting and significant resources including the film Gerrymandering 101: http://lwvin.org/redistricting.html

The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting (ICIR), a statewide coalition working to end gerrymandering in Indiana before the next round of redistricting in 2021, was founded by Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters of Indiana in 2014. ICIR presented a detailed proposal for an independent redistricting commission to the IN Legislature's Redistricting Study Committee in September. Check under the September 19 agenda for a copy: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2016/committees/redistricting_special_interim_study_committee_on

League studies from around the US: https://sites.google.com/a/leagueofwomenvoters.org/clearinghouse/system/app/pages/search?scope=search-site&q=redistricting

Sheila Kennedy's blog, October 19, 2016 https://www.sheilakennedy.net A member of the Interim Study Committee on Redistricting, Sheila looks at what the committee has accomplished and what must come next if Indiana is to achieve redistricting reform.

Tom Sugar, a member of the Interim Study Committee on Redistricting, proposed his No Politics Plan at https://leadorleave.org

These two pieces from NPR and Salon fit in with Tom Sugar's observations:

Christopher Ingraham, "This is actually what America would look like without gerrymandering," The Washington Post, January 13, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/13/this-is-actually-what-america-would-look-like-without-gerrymandering/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.24620a58001a

Christopher Ingraham, "How to gerrymander your way to a huge election victory," The Washington Post, October 28, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/28/how-to-gerrymander-your-way-to-a-huge-election-victory/?utm_term=.23d35b8021cd Craig Newmark's craigconnects & the Brennan Center, Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America? And What We Can Do to Fix It, March 28, 2016: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/why-it-so-hard-vote-america

From the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2017/02/22/misrepresentation-in-the-house/?utm_campaign=Brookings+Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=43195766

https://www.nature.com/news/the-mathematicians-who-want-to-save-democracy-1.22113 Read about the mathematicians who may be expert witnesses in current redistricting court cases.

David Wasserman, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared," FiveThirtyEight, March 8, 2017: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/purple-america-has-all-but-disappeared/

John Oliver on Gerrymandering: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/apr/10/john-oliver-gerrymandering-last-week-tonight

Arnold Schwartzenneger on Gerrymandering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfc3N0ZngXs

http://polytrope.com/district/ DISTRICT: A Game about Representation & Redistricting

https://openstates.org/ find legislators, legislation

LWV of Greater Lafayette's resource page: http://www.greaterlafayette.in.lwvnet.org/redistricting.html

A new Indiana organization with a common goal and very useful resources online: http://citizensforfairelections.com They are working in cooperation with the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting, and it's worth signing up for their newsletter.

To keep up with national legal challenges related to redistricting and to voter rights, regularly check https://www.brennancenter.org

http://billmoyers.com/story/democrats-must-become-americas-anti-gerrymandering-party/ About the Fair Representation Act proposed by Rep. Don Beyer

http://billmoyers.com/story/federal-court-rules-texas-gerrymandering-unconstitutional/

http://billmoyers.com/story/deep-history-radical-right/ Interview with Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains.