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       DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT: REDISTRICTING

       Democracy is not a spectator sport.  This has been the motto of the League of Women Voters and one of the reasons we have chosen to focus on the issue of redistricting for the remainder of this decade.

Over and over we hear people say “My vote doesn’t matter/count” or “Why should I vote, no one represents my views/concerns.”  Why do so many voters believe these things – and more importantly, are they right?  The current redistricting process may be at fault. Redistricting occurs by law every 10 years following the census. It has been the privilege of whichever party holds the power in most state legislatures, including Indiana.  (Some exceptions exist in Western states such as Arizona and California where the constitutions allow for citizen redistricting committees).  

The goal of redistricting is to ensure the “one person, one vote” requirement of the US Constitution’s equal protection guarantee, as upheld by the 1960’s Supreme Court.  However, redistricting has become an exercise in politicians selecting their constituents (Gerrymandering) rather than districts in which voters have meaningful choices when electing their representatives.  Legislators carve out districts that will ensure the re-election of incumbents.  This has resulted in discouraging individuals from running for office and parties from slating a candidate in such districts, i.e., an increasing number of uncontested elections.  

Additionally, voter turnout has been decreasing in both primary and general elections.  In Indiana, in the 2014 General Election for example, the average voter turnout was 30 percent.  (In the 1990 General Election turnout was 56.7percent.)  Primary and Off Year election turnouts tended to be even lower.  Meaningful competition is more likely to excite the electorate and lead to a larger turnout resulting in the election of representatives who represent different viewpoints but will work together to reach reasonable compromise in doing the community’s business.  

The 2015 Indiana General Assembly voted to support the formation of a Redistricting Study Committee, making good on a promise made during the 2014 session.  So far only a few members have been appointed to this committee.  We urge the timely appointment of remaining members with the intent to have a knowledgeable, diverse, and impartial committee that has sufficient time to generate meaningful redistricting guidelines and a transparent redistricting system. 

In Indiana the state constitution charges the legislature with the final task of redistricting but doesn’t specify how it is to be accomplished.  Serious consideration of the recommendations of the Redistricting Study Committee could lead to more competitive and meaningful elections with greater voter participation, i.e., a truly democratic election process.  

Signed by the Board of the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana:   Toni Beumer, Meg Connolly, Roberta Heiman, Pam Locker, Deborah Schade, Lezlie Simmons, and Kathy Solecki  

 

 
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Pam Locker, President
P. O. Box 4456   Evansville, IN 47724


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