From: Terry Whittaker
The decision of state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, to block a vote on House Bill 1014 to establish an independent redistricting committee was frustrating on many levels. He did so in spite of the fact that of the 21 testifying, 20 spoke in support. He did so despite the bill being moved and seconded for approval by members of the Indiana House Elections and Appointments Committee, which he chairs. He did so despite the fact the bill was sponsored by a fellow Republican and co-authored by Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, who urged Smith to hold a hearing on the bill.
Perhaps more troubling was this statement from Mr. Smith: ”But there are 6.5 million people in Indiana, and all of them weren’t here today, and we need to listen to them too.” How one listens to people who aren’t there is a concept I have trouble understanding, but it implies that somehow Mr. Smith can intuit the will of the people. If that is so, it has to be discouraging to those who took the time and trouble to testify to realize that Mr. Smith had already made up his mind.
Redistricting needs to be taken out of the hands of whichever party controls the Indiana General Assembly. We should not have to depend on their benevolence not to create safe districts for themselves. Indiana had the worst voter turnout in the nation in the 2014 elections partly because many felt their vote didn’t count in districts drawn to assure one party would prevail.
Independent redistricting is not a partisan issue; it is supported by people of all political persuasions. Now more than ever, we need to take advantage of policies over which we can find common ground.
This issue will not go away; Indiana will redistrict after the 2020 census, but the mechanism for an independent committee must be in place well before that. I hope Mr. Smith will allow a bill out of committee next year so a healthy debate over how to best structure such a committee can begin.