Goshen voters discuss gerrymandering in Indiana
GOSHEN, Ind. --- Gerrymandering is the controversial process that experts say uneven the playing field in political elections.
A group of concerned residents came together on Saturday at Goshen College to discuss how redistricting affects their community and how as one speaker said takes votes away from voters
Gerrymandering is the process of drawing political boundaries that give a party a numeric advantage over an opposing party.
“The idea now is that it’s a big conflict of interest because people who are in charge of drawing new districts for both congress and the state legislature is the state legislature themselves,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director at the Common Cause Indiana.
A 2014 study done by the University of Chicago reported that Indiana has the worst gerrymandered house districts in the nation. In 2012, Democratic house candidates received a total of 999,219 votes and Republicans received a total of 1,342,237 votes.
Currently, the state legislature draws both congressional and state legislative districts.
“It’s a lack of choices for voters there are too many districts that have drawn to be safe for either the republican or democrat that’s running,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn uses the 2014 Indiana House race as an example saying all nine House representatives were reelected in the race. The 2014 Indiana house election results show every incumbent winning their respective district.
She said this lack of competition, that gerrymandering causes, negatively impacts voting participation in the state and we’ll continue to see it in 2018 during congressional elections.
“If people don’t have any choices they’re not going to bother to show up,” said Vaughn.
According to the United States Elections Project, in the last non-presidential election in 2014, voter turnout in Indiana hovered around 28 percent.
“When you take competitiveness out of the system what you’re doing is giving one group an advantage over another group and what we want is a level playing field where everybody plays by the same rules,” said Charles Mumaw, a Goshen resident.
Vaughn said redistricting reform is the way to level that field.
“Redistricting reform will give voters in Indiana more choices will put them back in control of elections and will hopefully cause participation in our state to increase,” she said.
In 2014, House Bill 1032 proposed a redistricting committee to hold hearings, take public comment, and recommend plans to redraw general assembly districts and congressional districts. It passed through the House but was struck down in the Senate.
In 2017, another proposal was rejected in the House that would have given an independent, nonpartisan commission the power to draw districts for the Indiana General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation, based off of the 2020 census.
The people who participated in the forum today, according to Vaughn, are the people who will make reform happen in Indiana. Vaughn said meetings like today just give folks to the tools they need.
It’s up to the grassroots groups to call their legislatures and make their voices heard.