Looking at the news this year often feels like trying to get a drink from a fire hose. From the diplomatic issues in North Korea and Russia and the revisitations of “rigged” elections, to the deluge of sexual assault and harassment accounts in the media, it’s hard to know where to put your resources.
The ACLU – through our grassroots organizing body called People Power – has one suggestion that will have long-lasting implications nationwide: electoral reform.
People Power outlined a 50 state push, with electoral reform efforts that would change the policies and processes that run American elections state-by-state based on that state’s most pressing need. For example, other states will focus on restoring the right to vote for people with prior criminal convictions; creating independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions; enacting early voting periods; and implementing automatic voter registration, online voter registration, and Election Day registration. Indiana will focus on redistricting efforts.
Redistricting on its face is very simple and clear, but the execution is not. Unfair application of redistricting principles – called gerrymandering – is a process by which the political party in power gains advantage over the opposition party by manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. District lines might be drawn to carve up community interests, make one party a voting majority in a district, or draw a politician’s house into his own district. The technological arms race has fostered a political cottage industry around map making, involving supercomputers, teams of lawyers, and scads of data.
Indiana’s House districts are some of the worst gerrymandered in the country. Study after study in Indiana has shown that the interests of voters would be best served by having a bipartisan panel draw district lines based on research data, public review, and census results, to create contiguous districts that are nearly equal in population and avoid breaching precinct or community boundaries. It is unlikely, however, that lawmakers currently in power will give up their ability to elect themselves without intervention. Previous pushes for redistricting have been struck down or died in committee.
Long story short, elections in Indiana are in fact rigged, and we plan to un-rig them.
This struggle could be long and hard. But as Hoosiers and defenders of our civil liberties, the right to equitable representation in our state and local government is one of the more fundamental struggles within reach.
In 2018 and onward, the Greater Lafayette ACLU will be partnering with the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and others, to push forward our goal to redraw district lines in Indiana. We hope you will join us in our efforts.
President, Greater Lafayette American Civil Liberties Union