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Monday, December 22, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "A model for Indiana: Ohio crafts a plan to restore electoral balance"

Some quotes from today's editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

The Ohio General Assembly made history last week when it approved a bipartisan redistricting reform plan. The Indiana General Assembly should follow its lead and create a redistricting system that places fair representation before political advantage.

With a nearly unanimous vote, Ohio lawmakers ended almost 40 years of debate over how to draw legislative and congressional districts. The measure would establish a seven-member bipartisan commission to create maps. The districts can’t be drawn to one party’s advantage. The language calls for the statewide proportion of districts favoring a party to correspond with statewide voter preferences. If, for example, an average of 53 percent of voters favor GOP candidates over a 10-year period, the commission must allow no more than53 percent of the districts to be Republican-leaning.

By contrast, Indiana lawmakers control the redistricting process themselves. Whichever party holds majority status can draw districts to its advantage. Both parties have done so over time, but Republicans did an especially effective job in 2011. Their supermajority status in the General Assembly’s House and Senate reflects 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.

Results from statewide contests show a GOP advantage, but not that much of an advantage. President Barack Obama and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg each won about 45 percent of the Indiana vote in 2012. Fairly drawn legislative and congressional districts wouldn’t produce the disproportionate result Hoosiers saw in the last election.

Why does it matter? Because gerrymandered districts discourage political participation. Good candidates are discouraged from running against stacked odds. Voters conclude their votes don’t matter. Over time, some politicians will concern themselves less with the electorate and more with lobbyists and campaign contributors.

Indiana’s pathetic 30percent turnout last month – the worst in the nation – is a clue that something is seriously wrong.

Districts drawn for political advantage can become more competitive as people move in and out over time, but even if the results swing in the opposite direction, the flawed process simply allows the newly empowered party to draw districts to its advantage. The whole, destructive cycle begins again.

Ohio lawmakers seem to have finally realized the danger.

“Gerrymandering is the leading cause of dysfunction in both state and federal legislatures,” Ohio state Sen. Frank LaRose, an Akron-area Republican, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Reforming this is one of the most impactful things we can do for the future of our democracy.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 22, 2014 01:44 PM
Posted to Indiana Government