March 17, 2021

Citizens Redistricting Commission Hears Frustration Over Divided Counties

Original story from   Indiana Public Radio

Article origination Indiana Public Radio
A voting banner stands outside the North Side Gym in Elkhart in November 2020.  - Justin Hicks / IPB News

A voting banner stands outside the North Side Gym in Elkhart in November 2020.

Justin Hicks / IPB News

A grassroots commission is gathering public input on how Hoosier lawmakers draw legislative districts ahead of 2021 redistricting.  Those in the 6th congressional district say counties are being too broken up to matter to representatives.

The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, made up of Democrats, Republicans, and non-partisan members, doesn’t have any official power to redraw district lines – lawmakers at the Statehouse do that.  But it’s trying to show that putting redistricting in the hands of citizens will be better for Hoosiers.

Julia Vaughn leads Common Cause Indiana.

“A multi-partisan and diverse group with no direct interest in the outcome will draw maps that better serve voters and communities,” Vaughn said.

Read More: Republican Legislative Leaders Cast Doubt On Shadow Redistricting Commission

Though Democrats have led the charge at the Statehouse for independent redistricting, Nate LaMar, a Republican from Henry County, says gerrymandering cuts both ways.

“I live in State House district 54.  My state representative is Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville).  When the Democrats controlled the process in 2001, his district stretched from Union City to Knightstown, yet included no county seats.  Just bits and pieces of rural Randolph, Wayne, and Henry counties,” LaMar said.

Muncie state Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) agrees.  In 2011’s redistricting as a sitting state Senator, she was drawn out of her district.  After being elected to the state House of Representatives, she now shares Delaware County with six other representatives.

“One of those representatives has one precinct in Delaware County – that’s Tony Cook (R-Cicero), has Gaston," Errington said. "So you can imagine, when you only have one precinct, how much attention you’re going to give to that county.”

This citizens commission is holding public hearings in all nine Indiana congressional districts this spring and will send a report to lawmakers on what Hoosiers think.

This year, they have more time to do that than a typical year.  Data needed from the 2020 U.S. Census is running behind.  The General Assembly won’t get that data until after this year’s session has to end by state law and will need to come back in a fall special session to redraw lines.

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