GUEST COMMENTARY: Put voters first with redistricting reform

2014-02-25T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Put voters first with redistricting reformBy Arnold Schwarzenegger nwitimes.com
February 25, 2014 12:00 am  • 

One of my proudest moments as governor of California was working with advocates like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters to reform the redistricting process.

Like most states, the redistricting process was not serving the people of California, as it was gerrymandered and 99 percent of incumbents were re-elected in the districts they themselves drew.

The people of California, as do the people of Indiana and other states, want a political system that benefits the interests of the voters, not one rigged to benefit the interests of politicians.

In California we created and passed through a ballot initiative, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a unique approach to redistricting which took the power to draw the state legislative lines away from the political parties and gave it back to the people.

This people’s revolt is happening all across the country. The people are fed up with gridlock, fed up with the partisan bickering and fed up with leaders who lack the courage to stand up to the special interests.

What is happening in Indiana is very exciting. Elected leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives are standing up for the people and acting to put what is best for the people over political self-interest.

When passing House Bill 1032, a move to create a bipartisan redistricting commission, these leaders send a powerful message, that they hear the voice of the people and are willing to take steps to reform a rigged political system.

However, I have been listening to the reform advocates in Indiana, who have voiced concerns that HB 1032 doesn't go far enough to separate the redistricting commission from partisanship.

I agree with their concerns that having the legislative caucus leaders appoint four of the five commissioners, and with no requirement that the commission chair be nonpartisan, will allow politics to infiltrate the redistricting process.

It is also important for the members of the redistricting commission to be representative of the diversity of the state itself. With only five members this will be difficult to achieve; a larger membership will ensure that all Hoosiers, no matter where they live or what they look like, will feel represented by this important group and participate in a grassroots discussion that will yield congressional and state legislative districts that reflect the interest of their communities.

HB 1032 is on its way to the Senate Elections Committee, where the people of Indiana and the nation will be watching and hoping that courageous leaders in the Senate will pass a bill that puts the people over political self-interest and ends gerrymandering in their state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is former governor of California. The opinions are the writer's.

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