By Haley Pritchett
INDIANAPOLIS—The next 10 years of Indiana politics started this week during redistricting.
Redistricting is a complex issue often skimmed over by citizens. The process, however, is vital in determining whether or not all Hoosiers' voices will be heard.
Q: What is redistricting?
A: Redistricting is the process by which the state’s lawmakers redraw the boundaries of each voting district. What district you live in determines what Indiana House, Indiana Senate and U.S House candidates you vote for. District maps are redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census is completed. The United States Constitution says that each representative should have an equal number of citizens. Lawmakers are supposed to keep this and other considerations in mind.
Q: Why does this matter?
A: Although it seems to be a simple, straightforward process, redistricting is a bit messier when it is looked at under a microscope. Because politicians themselves are in charge of redrawing the maps, oftentimes they are accused of gerrymandering.
Q: What is gerrymandering?
A: Gerrymandering is when districts are drawn with intentional political motives. Politicians make sure they stack the odds in their favor when they place certain people in each district. This could mean putting all of the opposing party in one district so those people do not create competition in another, or stacking more of their supporting party in a district that they think could sway competitive districts to their advantage.
Q: Is this happening in Indiana?
A: At the public meetings on Sept. 15 and 16, which discussed the supermajority Republicans’ proposed maps for the Indiana House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives, it was argued that this is in fact happening in Indiana. For example, Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, a group that has no political affiliation, called the redistricting process a complete conflict of interest.
Q: What are the effects?
A: The effects of unfair redistricting processes are long term, even past the 10 years they are in place. They are especially harmful for minority populations. One in four Hoosiers is a minority, yet only one of the 11 members of the Indiana congressional delegation is a minority. Only 16 of the 150 members of the Indiana House and Senate are minorities.
Q: Where is Indiana in the process now, and what comes next?
A: Indiana’s House Elections and Apportionment Committee just finished hearing public testimony about the proposed maps for the Indiana House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives. The committee will have an amend-and-vote-only meeting on Monday, followed by a full House vote on the committee report, before it moves on in the process. As for the Indiana Senate maps, which have yet to be released, a public hearing is set for Sept. 27.
Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.