By Andi TenBarge
INDIANAPOLIS —A bill to establish an independent redistricting commission drew dozens of supporters to the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday.
Hoosiers from organizations such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters testified in support of House Bill 1014 before the House Elections and Apportionment Committee.
House Bill 1014 drew dozens of supporters to the Statehouse to speak before the House Elections and Apportionment Committee. Photo by Andi TenBarge, TheStatehouseFile.com
The bill’s author, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, said his bill would create a nonpartisan redistricting commission that aims to redraw state and congressional districts.
If enacted, the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the legislature would choose two members. Presidents from Ball State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court would choose another three members. The eight-member commission would then appoint its own chairperson to fill the ninth spot.
Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said the bill allows citizens to have their voices heard when it comes time to redraw district lines.
“Redistricting reform isn’t going to turn Indiana from a red state to a blue state,” Vaughn said. “That’s not our intent, but we do believe there are more competitive districts in Indiana than the handful that we currently have in the House and the Senate and we think redistricting reform will help that.”
Dan Telee, a resident from Fremont, was the only one who testified against the proposed commission. He questioned the constitutionality of the bill and said that the commission would not weed out potential political motivations.
“The reality of the history tells us that people do have motivations,” Telee said. “So, I think we are likely not to get what we’re looking for when we go for an altruistic measure.”
Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, the committee’s chairman, said he decided to hold the bill to allow for more time for lawmakers propose amendments.
Julia Vaughn with Common Cause speaks to redistricting reform supporters. She said having a nonpartisan commission would create more competitive elections statewide and accurately represent voters’ voices in the Statehouse. Photo by Andi TenBarge, TheStatehouseFile.com
“If we pass something, I want to make sure it’s going to work and not just pass something to appease the people that are appearing before me,” Smith said.
Following the hearing, Vaughn said supporters of the bill were surprised and angered by Smith’s decision to hold it. She said she will try to work with lawmakers in the coming days to have the bill heard again before the House Feb. 21 committee deadline.
“We’re really disappointed,” Vaughn said. “I don’t know how we could demonstrate more public support for this.”
The League of Women Voters has mounted a campaign on Facebook to urge people to contact Smith and demand a vote before the deadline.
Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, news site powered by Franklin College journalism students.