Redistricting reform not likely this session

Chronicle-Tribune (Marion, IN) - Friday, February 26, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS — Gerrymandering could continue in Indiana, as local lawmakers are doubtful legislation to guide the remaking of political boundaries will survive this year. 

Members of the Indiana General Assembly said many feel strongly about drawing lines for governmental district that make sense, keep communities together and don’t become divisive and jagged to appease political parties. 

Senate Bill 136 passed the Indiana Senate easily, but wasn’t even heard in the House. Technically, language from the bill could be put in to other legislation and passed next week in conference committees. 

But most local lawmakers said that probably won’t happen. 

“I think the odds are against it,” said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. 

By law, legislators draw the lines to determine political districts. 

The bill would have developed a study committee to look at ways to improve the process. 

Kenley favored the bill that gives statutory guidelines to lawmakers. 

He said while the message is clear that future districting should have clear-cut lines, legislation that would have forced fair lines would have been helpful. 

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is hopeful that even if the bill does not pass this year, lawmakers who draw the lines in the future will draw fair lines for the public. 

“It may not even go through, which if it doesn’t we may just have to go with what we’ve got,” he said. 

Rep. Joe Pearson, D-Hartford City, said he’s not sure why Democratic Speaker Pat Bauer did not hear the bill in the House, and doesn’t know whether it was purely political. 

“I was disappointed that it wasn’t heard in the House,’ he said. 

It’s important that communities are kept together, he said. 

In Grant County, for example, there are three senators that represent the county, and three representatives. Political lines are curved throughout the county, as a way to ensure Republicans or Democrats are more apt to get the vote. 

Pearson said if lines were drawn more appropriately, voters would feel like they can make a difference. 

“I wanted redistricting,” he said. “We’ve got to address redistricting so voters pick who we are — we don’t pick the voters.” 

Pearson added, however, that the issue may come up next week in conference committee. 

Rep. P. Eric Turner doesn’t think that’s likely. 

Turner, R-Marion, said the public has spoken for years that they want an end to gerrymandering. 

Still, Turner said when the Speaker didn’t even hear the issue in the House, it’s a strong signal that he’s not interested in it at all.