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No Redistricting Commission, but Senate Bill Proposes Rules for Drawing New Maps

Reform advocates: Rules for reducing political influence not ideal, but a step forward

INDIANAPOLIS - The maps which determine which legislators you get to vote on could have some new requirements next time around.

Redistricting reform groups have been campaigning to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts. Instead of changing who draws the maps, a Senate committee has unanimously endorsed changing how.

Legislators would be legally required to do all they can to avoid splitting up cities and counties, and prohibited from drawing lines designed to keep incumbents in their old districts.

Senate Elections Chairman Greg Walker (R-Columbus) says the redistricting debate has been bogged down over who draws the maps. He says he started out with the idea of devising a statistical measure of a maps fairness, but kept scaling it back till he got to a version he believes can gain the necessary votes. He says spelling out fairness rules should give voters more confidence in the process.

Redistricting reform groups from Common Cause to the League of Women Voters say they still want an independent commission, so legislators aren't writing the rules for themselves. But they're supporting the bill as a good start. Julia Vaughn with Common Cause says pinning down the criteria for maps is an essential step for whoever draws them. 

And Walker notes the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on whether slanting a map toward one party is unconstitutional. Courts can already throw out maps for packing minorities' votes into the same district, or diluting them across too many districts.

Walker's committee unanimously endorsed the bill, with Indianapolis Democrat Jean Breaux joining Republicans in voting yes. Minority Leader Tim Lanane participated in the debate, pressing for consideration of a commission, but was out of the room when the vote was taken. But Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody charges without a commission, the bill is an attempt to "stack the deck" in Republicans' favor.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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