Letter: Don’t assume legislature can’t handle redistricting

From: Terry Whittaker


I am a bit reluctant to get into a debate with Drew Robertson, one of the most informed, articulate and persuasive people I know, but I feel I must respond to his recent letter to the editor regarding Indiana redistricting reform.

Mr. Robertson opens by saying, “In their zeal to do something, anything, about gerrymandering in Indiana some have put misplaced hope in entities other than the elected Legislature. There is no reason to believe that these others will do better.” He then goes on to advocate leaving the system as is.

In the recent informative forum on redistricting reform organized by Bartholomew County Indivisible, there were examples offered of states that have created redistricting commissions, some bi-partisan, some non-partisan and hybrids in others. Some have been more successful than others depending on the criteria used to measure success.

The current Indiana system has resulted in the following:

In 2016, 46 percent of the Indiana legislative districts had only one major party candidate. In that same year at the congressional level Republicans won 58.6 percent of the vote, but won 78 percent of the seats. In that year across the 100 districts of the Indiana House of Representatives Republicans won 57.6 percent of the vote but 65 percent of the seats. Indiana had the lowest voter turnout in the country in the 2014 election.

Could all of this be corrected by an independent redistricting committee? Probably not. But could it do better? I certainly believe so.

I doubt that any criteria to choose such a commission would result in a group with more vested interest in drawing districts to benefit one party over the other than the current one which gives such power to the party in control of the statehouse.

Finding the best way to draw our districts is challenging, but I cannot think of a more important function of our Legislature. We voted for our representatives to tackle tough issues; we should not assume that they are incapable of improving redistricting. There needs to be a healthy open debate with input from residents across our state. To leave things as they are is the easy way out.