E-Mail from the Indiana Senate Majority Caucus:
Redistricting Reforms: Senate GOP Leaders Propose New Guidelines, In-Depth Study, Constitutional Amendment for Independent Commission
Indiana Senate GOP leaders today unveiled a package of sweeping redistricting reforms that include establishing an independent commission for drawing state legislative and Congressional district boundaries.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said he will help shepherd the historic reform package co-authored by Assistant President Pro Tem Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) and Majority Floor Leader Connie Lawson (R-Danville).
Lawson, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and a member of the Elections Committee, will introduce legislation next week to better define how districts should be drawn following the 2010 census.
A bill to require an in-depth bipartisan look at best practices used by other states in drawing legislative and Congressional maps will be offered by Landske, chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and member of the Local Government Committee. Landske will also author a resolution to shift the constitutional map-drawing responsibilities from state lawmakers to an independent commission.
Long and Lawson were already pushing the three pieces of legislation at the Statehouse today – almost a full week before lawmakers officially gather to organize for the 2010 legislative session.
Landske spent part of the day briefing reporters and citizens in her home district, which includes Benton, Lake, Newton and Porter counties.
New, Objective Guidelines
“Objective principles like compactness, contiguity, preservation of counties and other political subdivisions, respect for communities and compliance with the Voting Rights Act should be paramount,” Lawson said. “In the past, there has been little guidance in either the Indiana law or the Indiana Constitution regarding redistricting. Our bill, which includes these new guiding principles, can be the first legislative step toward Indiana’s historic redistricting reforms.”
In-Depth Bipartisan Study
Landske’s legislation will require “a transparent two-year bipartisan look into what is and is not working among the other 49 states’ redistricting efforts. A special study committee – comprised of two lawmakers and two citizens appointed by each caucus and possibly chaired by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard – will be asked to conduct both daytime and evening hearings across the state. The committee will openly discuss and report how the people, not the politicians of Indiana can best be served in the future. This deliberation, in our judgment, could and should include the creation of an independent redistricting commission.”
Independent Redistricting Commission
Currently, the Indiana Constitution specifically tasks the Indiana General Assembly with drawing state and federal districts. Changing this legislative constitutional duty to an independent redistricting commission is possible, but only if a constitutional amendment for that purpose is passed by two separately elected sessions of the legislature and then approved by Indiana voters.
“It is a lengthy process and rightfully so,” Long said, “but if lawmakers want to give voters in 2012 the right to decide on this matter and to immediately vote for or against what may be a recommendation of the Redistricting Study Committee, then legislators must begin in 2010 with the Constitutional amendment process. If the Redistricting Study Committee should, after careful inspection, come back without that finding and recommendation, legislators or voters can decide at that point whether or not to move forward. However, Hoosiers will have thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared for whatever action we take as a state.”
The Rethinking Redistricting website by Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita