EDITORIAL: Renew push for redistricting reform

2014-04-13T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Renew push for redistricting reform nwitimes.com
April 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Indiana has been talking earnestly about redistricting reform even since U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., a Munster native, was Indiana's secretary of state. It's time to act.

It's disappointing that a bipartisan plan for redistricting reform was shelved again this year, but as Cubs fans say, there's always next year.

A coalition of House Republicans and Senate Democrats put forth the proposal rejected this year. It would have gone a long way toward removing politics from the process of drawing new legislative district boundaries every 10 years.

New boundaries are drawn following the release of decennial U.S. Census data to ensure representation is nearly equal in Indiana House, Senate and congressional districts.

The boundaries have historically been drawn for political gain as well, to protect incumbents in the political party in power.

House Bill 1032, co-sponsored by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, of Anderson, sailed through the House, 77-20, only to meet its untimely demise in the Senate, where there wasn't even a committee hearing on the bill.

HB 1032 would have created a five-member, nonpartisan commission to draw boundaries that the General Assembly would have to adopt without changes.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, is happy with the current maps that locked in a Republican supermajority in the House and Senate, but he said he's willing to create a blue ribbon commission to see if there's a better way to draw boundaries.

The clock is ticking to get this accomplished before the next deadline. Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes is worried that a blue ribbon commission could be used as a stalling tactic.

It's important to get this accomplished before the 2021 redistricting.

Rokita's principles, put forth in his Rethinking Redistricting proposal, should guide the reforms being considered now. Hoosiers deserve sensible boundaries that group communities together, don't sprawl over long distances and aren't designed to advantage one political party.

We need to see progress on this reform well in advance of the next redistricting.

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