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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Questions remain about independent redistricting commission"

Lesley Weidenbener has a good column in the Sunday Louisville Courier-Journal on the potential impact here in Indiana of last Monday's SCOTUS decision on Arizona redistricting:

INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to use independent redistricting commissions to draw maps for legislative districts.

That’s particularly timely in Indiana, where lawmakers are about to study whether to move the redistricting process to such a commission. * * *

In a decision last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said a redistricting commission in Arizona is constitutional. In that case, the commission was created by voters through an initiative process. The court said disallowing the commission would “run up against the Constitution’s animating principle that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

But that raises a question: In a state like Indiana, without a ballot initiative process, would an independent commission actually honor the idea that the “the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government?”

After all, the elected legislature would be turning authority over to an unelected body.

At least when lawmakers are in charge, the voters have – at least in theory – the power to get rid of them if they do a bad job.

It’s just something to think about. And advocates for a commission would rightly point out that it’s tough to vote out a legislator whose district has been gerrymandered to the point that it’s not competitive.

Regardless, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision didn’t clear all the hurdles Indiana lawmakers face in creating a commission in the state.

The Indiana Constitution requires that every 10 years lawmakers set the number of House and Senate members and “apportion them among districts” according to number of people counted in the federal census. Essentially, the state constitution gives the power for drawing maps to lawmakers, not an independent commission.

That could mean a constitutional amendment is necessary. It could mean an independent commission would draw maps that the General Assembly would approve.

These are all the issues the study group this summer needs to tackle. But the debate shouldn’t be just about the logistics. It needs to be about the larger questions as well.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 5, 2015 08:08 PM
Posted to Indiana Government