House GOP blocks Pierce’s attempt to loosen political hold on redistricting
INDIANAPOLIS – House Republicans today prevented a vote on a proposal from State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) that would have given the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) the task of drawing new districts for Indiana's legislative and congressional districts.
With the inclusion of Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 398, LSA would draft initial redistricting plans and submit up to three proposals for consideration by the House, Senate and Governor. The amendment also prohibits any political considerations, including the addresses of incumbents, from being used to draw the districts. Other required parameters for the drawing of districts would include respecting city and county boundaries and drawing compact districts.
The Speaker of the House blocked a vote on the amendment by ruling that the design of legislative and congressional districts in which candidates would run for office was not sufficiently related to a bill about various elections matters.
“Republicans know the public wants a nonpartisan redistricting process, but they are intent on holding onto their supermajority at any cost,” Pierce said. “That is why they used a procedural ruling to block the amendment and avoid their constituents finding out where they stand on the issue.”
Delays in collecting and processing census data by the U.S. Census Bureau have pushed back the legislature's redistricting process to the fall.
“Over the past decade, Republicans have blocked redistricting reform,” Pierce said. “But there is still time to remove politics from the process.”
There is currently no state law requiring that Indiana's legislative districts be compact or that they must preserve counties or other political subdivisions and communities of interest. Indiana also currently allows for partisan data – such as addresses of incumbents and voters' party registrations – to be used in drawing district lines. Using this data allows the majority party to choose the constituents each member will represent in a way that limits competition in legislative elections.
“Partisan redistricting steals the voices of Hoosier voters, which is one reason why Indiana ranks 41st in the nation for political engagement. Little or no competition in legislative races discourages voters from voting. That should concern every legislator, no matter their party, because it weakens our democracy.”