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. 

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 159 would create an independent bipartisan commission composed of elected officials and members of the public. Through a transparent process, the commission would help ensure district lines are drawn in a fair way that accounts for the size of a district’s population and its racial and ethnic diversity.  
 
This legislation is a much-needed and long overdue reform that will help strengthen our democracy and stop politicians from rigging our electoral system to benefit themselves.  
 
But so far, it hasn’t had a hearing – and 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.  Unless legislation takes maps out of the hands of self-interested politicians and gives it to a bi-partisan committee that will be accountable to us, We the People, extreme 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 two years, there’s no time to waste. 
 
The problem is clear and the solution is at hand: Indiana legislators should seize this opportunity to restore the public’s trust and strengthen our democracy by passing Senate Bill 159 without delay. 
 

Date

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 5:00pm

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On Sept. 24, Milo Smith took his daughter to an Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Cleveland Browns. Though the Colts won that day — a tragically rare occurrence this year — Smith left the game offended. During the national anthem, a group of players on both teams took a knee in reaction to President Trump’s comments two days earlier, where he called protesting players sons of bitches who should be fired by team ownership.

"To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith told the Indianapolis Star newspaper. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it's still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it."
 
But Smith isn’t just an ordinary Colts' fan. He’s a state representative, and he couldn’t sit idly by while the Colts players knelt during the Star-Spangled Banner. Instead, he’s promised to introduce legislation that would force the team to refund the ticket price to any fan offended by a Colts player protesting during the national anthem.
 
If passed, however, that law would be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
 
I, too, attended that Colts game in September with my daughter. When Colts players kneeled during the national anthem, we and many others understood them to be protesting our nation’s systemic racism that manifests in violent and soul-crushing ways. Such protests are undeniably political speech, and political speech is our most protected and important form of expression. 
 
But Rep. Smith doesn’t seem to get this. Instead, his proposed law is an absurd assault on the First Amendment because it tackles, if you will, political speech of the players by exerting economic pressure on their employer, the Indianapolis Colts. The First Amendment protects each of us from government controlling what we say, and it certainly protects businesses and their employees from government regulation that seeks to discourage speech based on its content.
 
And make no mistake, that is Rep. Smith’s intent.
 
Since he doesn’t like the message the players are sending with their silent protest, he wants to use the power of government to apply pressure to shut the protests down. What’s next? Regulatory fines instead of piano music for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when actors go on too long about politics during their Oscar acceptance speeches?
 
The Colts are a private business. The players work for a private business. And the fans support that private business. If fans are upset, let them work it out with their team by refusing to purchase tickets or watch on TV. That is, by the way, how some of the 44 million viewers of Oscars expressed their disagreement when things got political at last year’s Oscars. According to one poll, two-thirds of Trump voters just changed the channel.
 
If Rep. Smith and others like him don’t like watching players peacefully protest racial injustice, then they should simply stop going to and watching Colts’ games. Government, however, should stay out of it.
 

Date

Monday, January 8, 2018 - 9:00am

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A member of the Indianapolis Colts taking a knee during the National Anthem

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