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Activists Renew Push for Independent Redistricting

Indiana's legislative maps due for next redraw in four years

A coalition calling for change in how Indiana draws its legislative maps is relaunching its effort.

The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting brings together groups including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters in pushing for Indiana to become the 15th state to assign an independent commission the task of drawing legislative districts. A study committee last year didn't endorse a specific plan, and a bill creating a commission got a hearing in the House this year but not a vote. About 100 people rallied at the statehouse to call on legislators to take action in 2018.

Representative Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) says she believes there's growing public support to change the system, and says she's optimistic legislators will feel enough pressure to advance the bill next year. 

Hamilton's district is one of the state's most competitive. Democrats have held the seat in all three elections on the current maps, but never by a larger margin than Hamilton's four-point victory last year. Hamilton says close districts mean legislators are more likely to work hard and to listen to their constituents.

Districts are required to be of approximately the same population, and the tendency for Democrats and Republicans to cluster in particular areas means many races would produce the same winner under new district lines. But Jorge Fernandez, who lost a challenge to Representative Dan Leonard last year in heavily Republican Allen and Huntington Counties, argues Democrats held two of Fort Wayne's seven House seats before redistricting and immediately lost one after the 2011 redistricting.

The statehouse rally was timed to fall on the birthday of former Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, best remembered for the salamander-shaped legislative district 200 years ago which made "gerrymander" a synonym for politically engineered maps. Activists served up birthday cake and a political Rorschach test, inviting people to ponder what a handful of oddly shaped districts most resemble.

Indiana's maps are due for their next redraw in 2021.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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