By Carolina Puga Mendoza
INDIANAPOLIS—Lawmakers involved in Indiana’s upcoming redistricting process faced criticism Friday from Hoosiers who demanded more public involvement.
The first round of public hearings was held in four cities around the state, with citizens invited to voice their concerns and thoughts on the redistricting process. But many charged that the process amounted to gerrymandering and expressed distrust.
At the hour-long public hearing at the Ivy Tech Anderson campus, legislators who attended included Senate Elections Committee chairman Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, Rep. Ann Vermilion, R-Marion, Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, and Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.
Around 20 citizens came up to the podium to speak, some from advocacy groups and others who said they were concerned citizens, using words such as mistrust, frustration, gerrymandering and disaster to express their thoughts on Indiana’s redistricting process.
Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both the Indiana House and Senate, have been facing charges of gerrymandering in the 2011 redistricting process, opinions that became apparent during the hearing.
“Although I've lived in several other states during my life, I want one Republican on this committee to explain to me how it is fair for you to pick your voters and not your voters picking you,” said Kathy Badger from Madison County.
Some who testified pointed out how gerrymandering affects minority communities and urged a transparent process to assure all voices are heard.
Some of those testifying said they’ve never taken part in politics before, including Tom Green, who said he has voted in elections but feels like his vote is being ignored.
“It is time for the politicians to stop choosing their voters and the voters to choose you guys. Do the right thing,” Green said.
Others who testified urged a nonpartisan commission to be in charge of redistricting to ensure fairness. But the most common request was to involve the public in decision making and to be transparent every step of the way.
During the hearing at the Ivy Tech Lafayette campus, college and high school students attended to speak about the value of government and how they feel their votes are forgotten. Catherine Wilcox, a student at West Lafayette Junior High, pointed out the lack of response from lawmakers on citizens’ concerns as well as the public's doubts about the government.
“I am becoming more unsure of the actual value you place on Hoosier voices themselves,” Wilcox said.
“Yes, you put on this [hearing] for us, which I'm very grateful for, to air our concerns, but you haven't given us any feedback or reassurance that these real concerns will be dealt with. Unlike the districting process in Indiana, I am choosing to be very direct with you as a constituent who is under 18 years of age. I am asking for your voice, for explanation and for … clarity. I hope that you will be brave enough to give it to us.”
Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.