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NOW IS THE TIME FOR FAIR REDISTRICTING

A Letter to the Editor of the Brown County Democrat from League President Shari Frank, March 12, 2019


Why do We Need Fair Redistricting in Indiana?

Someone recently said they are not in favor of Redistricting because for the first time in nearly 30 years, Brown County has two representatives, Senator Eric Koch and Representative Chris May, who pay attention to and are really helping Brown County with Brown County issues!  It is such a treat, they said, because in the past, Brown County was split into different districts, and none of the multiple representatives paid any attention to Brown County.  The current districts, formed after the 2010 census, seem to provide fair representation in this person’s view, but the prior districts did not.  This concern is exactly why we need Fair Redistricting criteria for the redistricting to take place after the 2020 census.    

 The past 30 years represented three very different shaped districts affecting Brown County.  The current districts were formed after the 2010 census.  Previous districts were formed after the prior two censuses that were taken in 1990 and 2000.  If you want to see the prior districts after each census, go to the website https://what-the-district.aclu.org/ and enter your zip code.  You will be amazed at how the district shapes have changed.  

 Redistricting is the process of setting up political divisions, or districts, to vote for Congressional and State legislative positions.  Voting districts must have nearly equal populations, so they are adjusted every 10 years after the census is taken.  After the 2020 census, population changes will require adjusting district lines.  Both Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of gerrymandering, or forming districts to advantage their party.  It undermines the power of individual votes.  It undermines democracy.  Indiana needs criteria in place to make sure people who have shared interests, like the people of Brown County, will be kept together in the same district. 

 What Margin of Victory (MOV) indicates Elections are Competitive and Fair?

 Margin of victory (MOV) is the difference between the percent of popular vote received by the winning candidate, and the percent of the popular vote received by the runner up candidate.  State-wide elections are not affected by voting districts.  Looking at state-wide voting in the 2018 election, Republican Mike Braun won the U.S. Senate race with 50.7 % of the popular vote, to 44.8% of the vote for Democrat Joe Donnelly - a margin of victory (MOV) of 5.9%.  Pretty competitive!    

 If we believe that elected representatives should reflect the public at large, elections should be competitive.  Elections should ensure a FAIR chance for different groups to elect someone representing their views.  An election is generally considered competitive when the margin of victory is 10% or less. 

 How Competitive were Indiana State-wide Elections?  

 In state-wide Indiana elections, not affected by grouping voters into political divisions or districts, the margin of victory ranges are relativelycompetitive.  Secretary of State Connie Lawson won against her Democratic opponent with an MOV of 15.6%. The MOV for State Auditor was 14.5 %, and the MOV for State Treasurer was 17.2%.  

 Since these elections are not affected by district lines, we could use these higher MOVs, and even round up to use a 20% margin of victory (MOV) to evaluate competitiveness of races that are dependent on district lines.  So, how competitive are our district dependent elections?  

 What are Election Results from Voting Districts?

 After the 2018 Indiana election, we have 50 State Senators:  40 Republican, 10 Democratic.  The Indiana State House has 100 Representatives:  67 Republicans and 33 Democrats.  Do these results indicate that Indiana is 60%-70% Republican?  Or are the voting district divisions resulting in an unfair advantage for one party?  

 High Margin of Victory (MOV) in elections shows lack of competitiveness.  Results from 2018 Indiana Elections show: 

·      In Indiana Senate elections, 64% (16) had an MOV over 20%, with 24 % (6) of 25 Senate candidates had no opponent (100% MOV).  

·      In the Indiana House elections, 74% had an MOV greater than 21%, 26% were won with fairly competitive races with less than 20% MOV; 31 House races were uncontested (an MOV of 100%)!

·      In the Indiana US Congressional elections, 66% had MOV above 28%, only 3 had MOV less than 20%.  

 Next Step: Write to Your Representatives and Ask Them to Vote for FAIR REDISTRICTING Legislation!

 Senate Bill SB 105 is a good start toward Fair Redistricting.  The Indiana Senate passed the bill, and it’s now in the Indiana House. The bill would be better if it included criteria to ensure voting districts are fair and representative of the state population, and to include transparency of the criteria used, and a mechanism for citizens can weigh in if they feel their community will be harmed by new districts.  

 It’s important to let your representative know if you want this bill to become law!  There are so many bills and topics being considered, citizen action is essential to help this bill get a hearing, and to help it pass. The chair of the House Elections Committee will decide if SB 105 even gets a hearing.  Write to let him know you’d like fair redistricting:  Rep. Tim Wesco, email:  H21@iga.in.gov.  At the same time, it is important to contact our state representatives to ask them to vote for this bill.  In Brown County our representative is Chris May whose email is H65@iga.in.gov. While emails are important, hand written letters are also powerful.  Letters can be sent to (representative’s name) at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN.  46204. We are asking our representatives to develop districts that ensure every person’s vote matters.  

 For More Information

 You can get more information on redistricting and other voter rights issues from www.allinfordemocracy.org/www.commoncause.org/indiana/, and www.lwvin.org/.