The ability of voters to choose their elected officials is a fundamental principle of democracy. If voters don’t like what their elected representatives are doing, they can go to the ballot box and replace them – or run for office themselves.
To Unrig the Maps, Indiana Needs Real Redistricting Reform, not Window Dressing
In a democracy, the people – not the government – should have the power to determine the outcome of elections.
But over time this fundamental principle has been eroded, as politicians have drawn their own legislative maps with increasing sophistication and precision.
State legislators in Indiana, and in many states across the country, can draw their own district lines, which means they can pick their own voters and skew the outcome of elections in their favor.
This kind of aggressive gerrymandering undermines the democratic process by shielding incumbent politicians from accountability and making it harder for voters to make their voices heard.
Here’s how it works. Say a powerful state legislator is concerned that her re-election might be more competitive than expected. If she’s in the majority party that controls the redistricting process, she and her friends in the legislature can redraw her legislative district so that it’s less competitive: by removing voters who might be inclined to support her opponent, and adding in voters who are inclined to vote for her.
Both parties have been doing it for years, and it’s terrible for democracy. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
At a time when Hoosiers are understandably frustrated with politicians who don’t reflect their values or interests, changing the way legislative maps are drawn is one of the most important steps we can take to strengthen our democracy and restore the public’s trust.
That’s why the ACLU of Indiana has joined a broad and bipartisan coalition of Hoosiers supporting reforms that will take the redistricting process out of the hands of self-interested politicians and ensure legislative districts are drawn fairly.
Senate Bill 105 would establish a set of legal standards that would guide legislators when drawing new districts. While the bill is a proactive step, it does not go far enough and does not create an independent redistricting commission.
This legislation is a long overdue step in the right direction, which will help strengthen our democracy and stop politicians from rigging our electoral system to benefit themselves.
But there are troubling signs that legislative leaders who are reluctant to give up their gerrymandering ways will embrace a weak and essentially meaningless bill and pass it off as progress.
Legislation should ultimately take maps out of the hands of self-interested politicians and give it to a bi-partisan committee that will be accountable to us, We the People, or else gerrymandering will continue to erode our democracy.
Hoosiers deserve real redistricting reform that ends this kind of partisan map-rigging for good. And with the next round of redistricting coming up in just one year, there’s no time to waste.
*This was updated from a January 2018 blog written on SB 159.