Independent redistricting committee is long overdue

Voters in Hoosier communities deserve to have districts that accurately represent a geographic area and that community’s values, and are not zigging and zagging into areas several counties away. Unfortunately, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Far too often, state political districts have been carved up in ways to benefit either the Democratic or Republican parties and their candidates. That’s called gerrymandering — and it needs to stop.

An independent redistricting commission is a way to ensure district boundaries are drawn to accurately reflect communities. Legislation that proposed to create such a commission, House Bill 1014, was introduced in this session of the Indiana General Assembly.

The bill, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, and co-authored by Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, appeared to have strong support. It received a hearing in the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee on Feb. 15, but committee chairman Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, blocked a vote on the bill.

Smith stated that he had several concerns about the bill, citing what he said were serious flaws that could cost taxpayers money and not fulfill its purpose. Specifically, he said the way the bill used special legislative sessions to approve the independent redistricting commission’s recommendation was flawed in that if the recommendation was rejected by two special legislative sessions, then the decision would have to be made by the General Assembly. Smith said that would be a waste of taxpayer money and time.

While we understand a hesitancy to advance flawed legislation, it begs the question of why the problematic parts of the bill were not addressed during earlier committee work. Was it not understood that the flaws needed to be fixed in order for the bill to receive a vote?

We hope that the block was not in order to preserve any political gain.

Since the deadline for bills in this session of the General Assembly to pass out of committee was Tuesday, it looks like we’ll have to live with what we already have — for now.

However, new redistricting legislation must be a priority in both houses if the Indiana Legislature wants Hoosiers to trust in the fairness of our election process.

It’s the right thing to do. Voters deserve that.

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