It’s time to take the fox out of the hen house.
It’s time for Indiana to establish an independent redistricting commission.
Although Indiana usually prefers to follow and not lead on the national stage, the Hoosier state should take an opportunity to get ahead of the curve on this issue in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
When asked to consider the question of partisan gerrymandering, the process of legislators drawing maps with the intent of giving their political party a built-in advantage, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 that the issue was a political one, that it should be left to the states and that federal courts should not intervene.
Gerrymandering is a tool of both political parties. The Supreme Court case being decided considered both maps from North Carolina drawn to favor Republicans and maps from Maryland that were drawn specifically to break a longtime Republican district and oust its representative in favor of new Democratic strongholds.
The issue with the Supreme Court decision is that the states are the ones causing the problem in the first place. Lawmakers have a lot to gain if their party stays in power. A governor is benefited if his political party controls the statehouse. The state courts get filled with judges that likely share similar political viewpoints as the governor appointing them.
Given the green light to gerrymander with abandon, the expectation is that a majority power could do even more to strengthen itself and squeeze out minority party voices.
So instead of allowing legislators to continue drawing the maps, some states have opted to take the process out of the statehouse. Indiana should do the same.
By creating an independent redistricting commission with balanced political representation on the panel, states can get more equitable, competitive and balanced districts. It’s already being done in eight states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana and Washington — which represent both a mix of typically red and blue states.
In Indiana, Hoosier Democrats have recently strengthened their call for independent redistricting. That call has so far been ignored by the Republican party that holds supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
But independent redistricting has more bipartisan support than most people might expect.
In the 2019 session, six bills were filed on the subject of redistricting — three authored by Democrats and three authored by Republicans.
As an example, one of those bills, Senate Bill 91, was authored by Republicans John Ruckelshaus, Mike Bohacek and Jon Ford, with Democrats Mark Stoops and Tim Lanane as co-authors. But the bill didn’t even get a committee hearing.
You’ll hear arguments that Indiana can’t do independent redistricting because no one is truly “independent” or “non-partisan.”
While yes, every individual brings some political baggage with them, the reality is that a commission set up to at least attempt to create parity would be far superior to the current one that is inherently one-sided and partisan, led by lawmakers who have a lot to gain and now seemingly less than ever to lose if they put their thumbs heavy on the scales.
Redistricting is rapidly approaching with the 2020 Census on the horizon. We hope that Republicans and Democrats will get together next year and agree to take the process out of their own hands.
Doing so would help preserve fairness and balance in a political climate growing increasingly polarized.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.