With the clock ticking rapidly toward midnight for the reform of how Indiana undertakes redistricting for legislative and congressional districts, no change is likely to take place.
Once every 10 years members of the Indiana General Assembly are tasked with the responsibility of redrawing the boundary lines for their legislative districts and Indiana’s districts for election to the U.S. House.
It’s not just a process used in Indiana, but in most states in the year following the national census, which takes place in 2020.
The whole concept is like the “fox guarding the hen house.”
What lawmaker contemplating reelection would be in favor of making his or her legislative district more competitive? Probably not very many. And when you look at some of the maps that are approved, it kind of makes the average resident scratch their head in wonderment.
It’s a practice that became known as gerrymandering in 1812 when a Pennsylvania district looked like a salamander.
In recent years, there have been lawsuits filed in several states over the redrawing of district lines, but none to date in the Hoosier State.
For the better part of a decade there have been efforts made in Indiana to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission consisting of a mix of private citizens and representatives from both political parties to draw the maps.
Legislation to create such a commission has not received votes in both chambers of the Legislature, although proposals have been made to establish guidelines.
State Sen. Tim Lanane of Anderson (a Democrat) will introduce legislation again in 2020 to create the commission. He notes that if action is not taken next year the legislators will again be drawing the maps.
Lanane doesn’t expect the process to change, which means nothing is likely to happen for another decade.
But the redistricting issue goes beyond state and federal offices.
What about the districts in most Indiana counties when it comes to city and county council offices?
To the best of my recollection, the districts for the Anderson, Elwood, Alexandria and Madison County councils have not been redrawn for close to 40 years.
Obviously within the past decade there have been population shifts throughout Madison County.
The county commissioners recently changed their district lines for the 2020 election based on population. Many suspect there was another motive behind the change ahead of the census.
Local units of government can take the lead on the redistricting debate by creating their own nonpartisan redistricting commissions starting in 2021.
That could force state lawmakers to follow suit.
With the available computer technology it would appear to be only logical to have a computer create the district lines with specific criteria included.
A computer-generated map would eliminate the politics from an antiquated process.