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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on "Commission will seek your help to draw maps: Citizens group to suggest changes in districts to lawmakers"

Updating this earlier ILB entry from yesterday, Ken Kusmer of the AP reports today:

INDIANAPOLIS — A citizen panel backed by the League of Women Voters and AARP will hold public hearings on the redistricting process and monitor the drawing of new maps by General Assembly, but Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said it might create confusion.

The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission co-chaired by former lawmakers Dave Crooks of Washington, a Democrat, and Republican Bill Ruppel of North Manchester says it wants to ensure the redistricting process emphasizes competition and fairness, not incumbent protection and partisan advantage. * * *

The citizen panel marks the latest effort to dilute the influence of party politics in the redistricting process. Gov. Mitch Daniels and Secretary of State Todd Rokita, both Republicans, urged the General Assembly to place new non-partisan guidelines on redistricting, but legislation died in the House after then-Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, deemed it a distraction.

Legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years after each national census. In some states, independent panels redraw the lines, but in Indiana, it's done by the political party or parties controlling the two chambers of the Legislature. Republicans will control both chambers when lines are redrawn next year.

The citizens commission said a politicized redistricting 10 years ago, when Democrats controlled the House, resulted in the northwest Indiana city of Chesterton, with a population of about 8,000, being divided among three Indiana House districts and the towns of Frankton and Rockport, each with populations of about 2,000, both being divided between two House districts. * * *

The 10-member citizen panel said it will hold public hearings and encourage members of the public to use free mapping software to draw their own legislative maps to compare against those produced by the General Assembly.

However, House Speaker Bosma said census data critical to redrawing the legislative maps won't be available until late February. He also said members of the public might confuse the hearings held by the citizen panel with those held by legislative committees.

”We certainly welcome citizen input,“ Bosma said in an interview. ”We pledge to draw fair districts and to abide by all constitutional and statutory requirements, and to comply with the Voting Rights Act.“

ILB: It is possible that the public will be confused by the citizen panel hearings because they are the only ones that go beyond the taking of testimony and move into actual line drawing. It will be interesting to see how the transparency promised by both parties this year will carry over into the redistricting process. Typically, the final boundaries have been negotiated in private and revealed in the last days of a session, like the final budget bill, through the opaque conference committee process, where "surprises" may be revealed later. Further, this is more than a political party thing, every incumbent stands to be impacted by how the new lines are drawn, so the fact that one party holds the majority in both houses really doesn't insure a smooth process. (As former State Reps. David Crooks is quoted in this story by Mary Beth Schneider: “The good, the bad and the ugly. All three are there,” Crooks said of the redistricting process that he said too often revolves around where the incumbents’ live and incumbents’ insistence on protecting their chances of re-election. Instead of voters choosing their officeholders, officeholders are choosing their voters, he said.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 19, 2010 07:04 PM
Posted to Indiana Government