2018SB326 Killed in House But the Struggle Will Continue As you are probably aware, the redistricting standards bill that passed the Indiana State Senate in late January, SB326, died last week when it failed to get a hearing in the House Elections Committee. Committee Chairman Milo Smith claimed that Indiana must wait to move on this modest reform effort until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering and his illogical excuse was backed up by the Speaker of the House. Both legislators are simply making excuses - if anything all the recent legal activity surrounding partisan gerrymandering should spur Indiana to act - because the states that aren't getting sued are the ones with citizens redistricting commissions.
While it is disappointing that SB326 did not make it through the process this year we should take some satisfaction from passing a redistricting reform bill through the Indiana Senate - that is no small accomplishment and something some folks believed would never happen.
And, we also were successful in getting Senate Concurrent Resolution 30 signed. SCR 30 calls for a summer study to examine redistricting issues, including implications from the U.S. Supreme Court case. The study committee will be a useful tool to organize around and help us continue to keep pressure on state lawmakers.
To be successful in 2019 we need to make redistricting reform one of the top issues in state legislative campaigns this fall. We'll be working on a candidate survey and we'll need everyone's help in getting candidates to respond. So stay tuned, our coalition will be meeting soon after the session adjourns to regroup and formulate a plan for moving forward.
You can help by writing a letter to the editor about the demise of SB326 and challenging lawmakers to take a stand against partisan gerrymandering.
Thanks for everything you are doing to move redistricting reform forward. We've come a long way and have farther to go so remember to pace yourself. This is a marathon and not a sprint.
Senate Bill 326, which will set into statute criteria for how the maps should be drawn, passed out of the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 42-6. While the bill does not establish an independent redistricting commission, we believe this legislation is a step in the right direction.
The bill will now move on to the House Elections Committee where it will be sponsored by Representatives Milo Smith, Kathy Richardson and Chris Judy. Rep. Smith is the Chair of the Elections committee while Reps. Richardson and Judy are members of the committee.
We will encourage the House to not only pass SB 326 but to strengthen it by amending it to establish an independent redistricting commission.
Comprehensive redistricting reform requires addressing both HOW the maps are drawn and WHO draws the maps.
Take Action: Attend Third House Meetings Third house meetings are in full swing and are a great opportunity to talk to your legislators about redistricting reform! Please attend the meetings in your area and ask your legislators where they stand on redistricting reform. We want to encourage the House to not only pass SB 326 but to strengthen it by adding an amendment to establish an independent redistricting commission. Comprehensive redistricting reform requires addressing both HOW the maps are drawn and WHO draws the maps. Click here for a list of Third House meetings.
Show Your Support Our All IN FOR DEMOCRACY yard signs are here! They are a great way to let the public and legislators know that redistricting reform must be a top priority for the General Assembly. We don't have the budget to ship these around the state, so we'll be hitting the highways at the end of the week to begin distributing them. Please contact Julia Vaughn at email@example.com if you want some yard signs.
In Case You Missed It Our Opinion: Redistricting reform in Indiana is long overdue South Bend Tribune
Indiana lawmakers have the perfect opportunity before them to reform the redistricting process, to make for more open and fair elections.
A recent federal court ruling should serve as a nudge to take that opportunity.
Redistricting reform is long overdue in the Hoosier state, given that the current system -- which gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts -- has resulted in maps that make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive. Both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of this system over the years, with the voters, whose role in political process has been reduced, coming up the big losers. Read the full article here.
We Need You at the State House on January 22nd The next meeting of the Senate Elections Committee is Monday, January 22 at 9:30 a.m. in the Senate Chambers. Although it has not been posted yet, Senator Greg Walker has told us that he will hear his redistricting bill, SB326 on that day. While we are still pushing for a hearing on SB159 (Ruckelshaus, Bohacek, Ford) it is more likely that SB326 will become our reform vehicle. The bill does not go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction and we hope that Senator Walker will work with us to make the bill stronger. You can help by contacting Senator Walker immediately. Thank him for sponsoring SB326 but tell him it only addresses one part of the redistricting question. Here are some talking points on SB326. https://gallery.mailchimp.com/af9fc7931960ecf47b6375d35/files/1cbe5c95-6e7e-432a-a9fd-f8f353f97626/redistrictng_Walker_letter_2018.docx
It's important we have a large turnout for this hearing - please plan to attend if at all possible. We will likely have a special guest with us that day. Common Cause Indiana is working with the California CItizens Redistricting Commission to send one of their members to Indiana to testify at the Jan. 22 hearing on the importance of having a citizens commission draw districts. After the hearing will we host a lunch and debriefing at the Indiana State Library in Room 211. We'll talk about our strategy to move redistricting reform forward in the legislative process and how you can help. We'll also learn more about the California experience from the member of the Citizens Redistricting Commission. If you plan to attend the debriefing and lunch, please RSVP to Julia Vaughn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did Your Community Pass a Resolution? If your city council or county commission passed the ICIR resolution in support of redistricting reform, encourage the sponsor to forward a copy to Senator Greg Walker so he is aware of all the grassroots support across our state for redistricting reform. Senator Walker's email address is Senator.Walker@iga.in.gov
So Long Milo Have you heard the news? Rep. Milo Smith has announced he's not running for re-election. He was facing a primary challenge and we've got to believe that the negative attention he's gotten in Columbus over killing redistricting reform last year had to play into his decision-making. While we won't miss him at all, his decision to make this his last session isn't necessarily a good sign for reform. Even though we are focused on the Senate at the moment, we do need to put some pressure on Rep. Smith. Please contact him and let him know that redistricting reform is one of the biggest issues facing Indiana and you expect his committee to take action this year.
Bills to Watch SB159, sponsored by Senator John Ruckelshaus and Senator Mike Bohacek is our main vehicle. It would create a nine member citizens redistricting commission composed of Republicans, Democrats and people who are neither Republican or Democrat. It also sets up some rules that the Commission would have to follow as they draw new maps. Senator Ruckelshaus worked with Common Cause Indiana to draft the bill and it is based on HB1014 from last year, with some of the improvements we wanted to see. We will have to work hard to get this bill a hearing. You can help by contacting Senator Ruckelshaus and thanking him for sponsoring the bill. Tell him you want him to fight to get the bill a hearing and that our coalition will be there to back him up. After you thank Senator Ruckelshaus, contact Senator Greg Walker and tell him to schedule SB159 for a hearing.
Speaking of Senator Walker, he has introduced SB326, which would create a set of redistricting standards that the legislature would have to follow when redistricting. SB326 is a good bill, it just doesn't go far enough and deals with only one side of the reform equation. We'll be meeting with Senator Walker next week to urge him to make the bill stronger but since he is more likely to hear his own bill than SB159, this will be an important bill and could become our reform vehicle.
Rep. Jerry Torr has re-introduced HB1014 in the House of Representatives and it should have the same bill number. There was some sort of glitch for the first few bills filed in the House to show up on the legislature's website so it is not available yet but Rep. Torr will have a bill again this year - he has confirmed that with several members of our lobbying committee. . .
You can also help by writing letters to the editor thanking these legislators for being leaders on redistricting reform. Senator Bohacek would especially like to see some letters in his district about SB159.
What Are You Doing Monday Morning? If you're free at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, January 8. come on down to the basement of the State House. The Senate Elections Committee will be meeting and although none of the redistricting bills are on the agenda, we'll be there with a small crowd bearing signs calling for redistricting reform. The idea is to create a constant presence to remind Senator Walker that we won't be going away until they deal with our issue. The committee will meet in Room 125. Wear purple if you can.
Have Your Legislators Taken the Pledge? Third House meetings have begun in legislative districts around the state so be sure to check on opportunities to publicly ask your legislators to go on record in support of reform. Great news to report from a town hall meeting in Noblesville this morning. Rep. Kathy Richardson said she would support a bipartisan redistricting commission and Senator Luke Kenley's replacement, Victoria Spartz, said she supports competition in elections. Apparently both legislators brought up the issue on their own and responded positively when asked how they would vote. This is great news and shows how much progress we've made since last year. Please let us know about any interactions you have with your legislators, - it will help the lobbying team tremendously!
Thanks for everything you are doing and stay tuned. Senator Walker said last week his committee would only have two meetings (although some members are pushing back on that) so we need to stay ready.
General Assembly Begins on January 3rd The new year will be barely underway when the General Assembly returns for the short session on January 3rd. They will adjourn by mid-March, so we don't have a lot of time to get redistricting reform legislation passed. When our bill failed to get out of committee last year, we had a simple message for lawmakers: We'll be back. To convey our determination and to remind them that we are not going away. a small group of volunteers from the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting will be welcoming legislators back to the State House on January 3rd with donuts and fact sheets on redistricting reform. We'll be planning events throughout the session that will require large numbers of people to be effective, so please stay tuned - it should be a fast-paced session.
Coalition Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate We've been working with Senator John Ruckelshaus (R) Indianapolis on redistricting reform legislation that is based on this year's HB1014 with some key improvements. The bill number is SB159 and the legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores). One of the most exciting new aspects of the bill is how the redistricting commission members are selected. SB159 sets up a public university based process that will allow any qualified Hoosier to submit an application to be considered for commission membership. Applicants can choose one of three categories: Republican, Democrat or neither Republican nor Democrat and each university will choose one finalist from each category. These twenty one names will be given to the Legislative Services Agency who will conduct a lottery to pick four Commission members, one Republican, one Democrat and two who do not belong to either major political party. Please send a thank you to Senator Ruckelshaus and Senator Bohacek for taking a leadership role on this issue and for working with us. Senator.Ruckelshaus@iga.in.gov and Senator.Bohacek@iga.in.gov. You can watch an interview with Senator Ruckelshaus about the bill here. http://wishtv.com/2017/12/21/redistricting-bill-would-move-outside-legislature-for-members-of-commission/ We need your help ensuring that SB159 gets a hearing and vote in the Senate Elections Committee. Please contact the Chairman, Sen. Greg Walker of Columbus and tell him to give SB159 a hearing and a vote. Senator.Walker@iga.in.gov Letters to the editor would also be helpful - here's a suggested theme. It's a new year and new attempt to reform redistricting in Indiana.
LaPorte Becomes 21st Community to Pass Resolution. On Monday the LaPorte City Council became the 21st community in the state to pass the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting resolution urging the Indiana General Assembly to pass redistricting reform. Leigh Morris, the former Republican Mayor of LaPorte was instrumental in the passage of the resolution and we are grateful to him for all he is doing to build grassroots support for redistricting reform in NW Indiana.
MD Partisan Gerrymandering Case Headed to Supreme Court Late last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it will hear another partisan gerrymandering case this term - Benisek v. Lamone - the challenge brought by Maryland Republicans against a Congressional district drawn by the Democrat-controlled Maryland legislature. Legal experts consider this a good sign - why would the Supreme Court put another partisan gerrymandering case on the docket if they're not ready to rein in the practice? The Maryland case is very different from the Wisconsin case - it doesn't use the efficiency gap and doesn't make equal protection claims, Instead, it argues that Republican voters in Maryland's 6th Congressional District are being retaliated against because of their past support for Republicans. In some previous writings, Justice Anthony Kennedy has said such a practice would be considered unconstitutional. At the Good Government seminar last week, attorney Paul Smith confirmed that the decision in the Wisconsin case is expected to be announced in early Feb. 2018. Keep your fingers crossed!
Like The New Look?After months of discussion the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting has adopted a new logo and tag line - and we're working on building a unified presence on social media. Hope you like it. Thanks to Lindsay Shipps for her branding work.
Save the Date - Dec. 7th
While Rep. Milo Smith may have shut down our opportunity for redistricting reform this session, he certainly didn't succeed in shutting down the growing number of activists who want to get involved in our efforts for reform. If anything, he has increased our numbers. Thanks Milo!
Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives have made several attempts to amend redistricting reform language into Senate bills on 2nd reading - their efforts have been ruled out of order by the House leadership and since Democrats are in a super-minority there is little recourse. We expect Senate Democrats to make similar efforts and they will also fail, for the same reasons.
The major problem we faced in the House is that the redistricting reform bill came up at the same time that the House majority leadership was twisting their members' arms to support tax increases for road funding. Since so many of their conservatives caucus members have pledged to never support any tax increases, it was a tough sell for the leadership to get their caucus in line behind their budget package. When it came time to twist arms for redistricting reform they received more pushback than expected and weren't really willing to go to the mat for redistricting reform.
The good news is that legislators are hearing about their failure to advance reform this session in meetings with constituents across the state. We've heard from several who have been surprised how many people are now talking about this issue. That means we are having an impact, and must keep it up!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
We'll be working hard over the interim to continue building grassroots support for redistricting reform and need your help with those efforts. We also need to build a bigger team of legislators who are involved in working on this issue and willing to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes up next year. Here is the plan:
1. Public meetings with citizens and legislators this summer to educate both on the need for redistricting reform in Indiana and to present our coalition proposal for reform. While we need to hold these meetings across the state, we will be reaching out to our allies in several key communities to ensure that events are organized. Those VIP areas are Columbus (home to both the Elections Committee chairs), Indianapolis, Hamilton County, Fort Wayne, New Albany/Jeffersonville, Porter County and Elkhart County. Just because your area isn't on the list doesn't mean it's not important so please plan on helping to organize a meeting in your community. Suggested format is a panel discussion using the short version of Gerrymandering the Movie to start. We suggest not including current legislators on the panel (that will come later) but using experts from organizations who are coalition members. Legislators should be invited to attend to learn and hear from their constituents on the issue but should not be presenters.
2. Please save the date of July 17th. That's Elbridge Gerry's birthday and we want a variety of events (press conferences, rallies, parties with birthday cake) around the state to draw attention to redistricting reform. We'll be working with activists in Columbus to give Rep. Milo Smith a special award on that day - so we want a bunch of satellite events around the state that day to magnify attention on the person who did the most to advance gerrymandering this year.
3. We'll hold a Citizen Activist training on Saturday, April 29 from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at First Friends Church, 3030 East Kessler Blvd., in Indianapolis. The curriculum will be modeled on our well-received Citizen Lobbyist trainings we did in February, but we'll expand the program a bit to include sessions on working with the media and building coalitions. If you want to attend, please email Julia at email@example.com. Lunch will be provided.
4. Thanks to Women4Change volunteer Betsy we've developed a prototype for the Name the District game. Basically it's like an ink blot test - Betsy blew up and cut out images of some of the more bizarrely shaped state legislative districts and mounted them on foam boards. Volunteers have carried them around the State House and asked people "What does this look like to you?" We've gotten a lot of interesting, and funny, responses and also generated conversations about the need for redistricting reform. This activity can be easily replicated and would be perfect for county fairs, farmers markets, tabling events, etc. Let us know if you need help getting started. We hope this activity will inspire some of our artistic activists to turn the district images into artwork. We would love to have a State House display of "gerrymandered art" next session.
5. We are looking for ways to raise money to purchase yard signs. But first, we need a catchy slogan short enough to fit on a yard sign. Suggestions welcome. Here are some current ideas: Fair Districts, Fair Elections Indiana Needs Redistricting Reform Tell Your Legislators to End Gerrymandering End Gerrymandering Competition is Good For Elections - End Gerrymandering Have a preference - let us know. None of the above? Come up with something else and let us know!
6. In the fall we will hold town meetings in cities around Indiana, at least one per Congressional district and targeting areas with legislators on the Elections Committees. All legislators will be invited and will be asked to state their position on redistricting reform. We will develop a pledge for reform that legislators will be asked to sign to indicate whether or not they support redistricting reform. It will be important that these meetings be well attended by the public, so start thinking now about groups you might collaborate with for an event like this.
The Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting Reform hosted a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Statehouse.
Speakers included representatives from Common Cause, League of Women Voters, Hoosier Environmental Council, Women 4 Change, Enterprise Republicans, Citizens Action Coalition, and Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation.
Our message was this:
We're not going anywhere.
The issue of redistricting reform is bigger than any one politician or party. This fight is about creating the best democracy possible and we're in it for the long haul.
What are YOUR next steps?
Use this fact sheet and these talking points, as well as background materials found on our website, so that you might educate legislators and the public. Our number one job between now and next year is to re-dedicate our efforts in recruiting more citizen activists across the state and educating our legislators on the importance of an independent redistricting commission.
We can -- and will -- succeed!
Click here to reference the LWVIN's policy position on redistricting.
Learning more on how to testify and present the case for redistricting.
Rally in front of the State House prior to the Committee Hearing
House chambers filled to capacity in support of HB 1014
Please call Rep. Smith (and your legislator) to demand a special committee meeting before Monday so that HB1014 can receive the vote it deserves.
Milo Smith Representative | District 59 Contact Information Phone: 317-232-9620 Phone: 1-800-382-9841 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you Tweet about this issue use #inlegis and tag your legislators.
We also encourage you - TONIGHT - to draft a citizen letter to the editor to your local paper. We need bright public attention on redistricting reform immediately to keep hope alive. Committee reports are due Tuesday and legislators typically do not work on Fridays. Time is running out.
As always, be respectful but firm in your position: Redistricting Reform NOW!
Need talking points? Click here.
This is the League's top priority in 2017 Legislative Session. The bill to watch at this stage is HB1014, co-authored by Speaker Brian Bosma and Rep. Jerry Torr (Chair of the Interim Study Committee). Redistricting Issue Advocate Debbie Asberry and our partners at Common Cause are currently working to build relationships in the Senate where we anticipate a chillier reception than in the House. Stay alert for upcoming action.
Click here to reference the LWVIN's policy position on redistricting.
For the past several years Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters of Indiana have hosted a good government seminar at the State House in December. The focus this year will be efforts by plaintiffs in Wisconsin and North Carolina to challenge their states' district maps on the grounds that they violate voters' 1st and 14th Amendment rights to freedom of speech and due process. If successful, these lawsuits would make partisan gerrymandering illegal.
We'll hear directly from attorneys arguing these cases. Ruth Greenwood with the Campaign Legal Center will discuss the Wisconsin case and Emmet Bondurant, a partner in the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson and Elmore will discuss the North Carolina case. They will be joined by Common Cause National Redistricting Dan Vicuna.
For more information about the Dec. 2nd seminar and to register, please go to www.commoncause.org/states/indiana. Proceeds will support Common Cause Indiana's work on redistricting reform.
We were unable to pull together a coalition meeting for Legislative Organization Day next week but are planning a training event for the first day of session in January. Stay tuned for more information on that soon. Hope to see you on Dec. 2nd.
The Special Interim Committee on Redistricting appointed by the Indiana State Legislature in 2015 met for the third time on July 7, 2016 in the House Chamber at the Indiana State House to standing room only. Michael Li, Senior Counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School provided testimony in person and Ed Cook, who is one of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency staffers in charge of the process in that state provided the committee with information via Skype.
On July 8 in West Lafayette a redistricting workshop was held to share and strategize next steps for shaping the final recommendation of the Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting to the State Legislature which is due December 30, 2016. Attendees discussed and strategized activities to communicate our message and engage communities in this vital effort. In addition, ideas were shared to refine and share plans for a map-drawing contest designed to engage citizens, particularly students, and provide publicity opportunities.
The latest meeting of the Study Committee was held on September 19th, where the coalition presented its proposal for redistricting reform. Great progress is being made but there is more to do. Attend the final meeting of the Commission and let you representatives know you want change. Learn more about the October 17th meeting here.
On Monday, Oct. 17th the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting voted 8 - 3 in favor of recommending that redistricting reform be adopted by the General Assembly. Although the draft recommendation is not perfect and needs some fundamental changes, it gives us a place to start. Had the committee not supported reform, our chances of even getting a bill filed would have been greatly reduced. Several committee members acknowledged the large numbers of citizens who attended committee hearings and communicated with them about reform. Our constant presence and large numbers got their attention and had a major impact on the committee. Let's give ourselves a pat on the back.
But, that was just round one. We've got a long way to go and clearly a tough row to hoe in the Indiana Senate. We are making plans for a coalition meeting and lobbying/social media training on Legislative Organization Day on November 22, 2016 - more details to come. Meanwhile, savor this victory and get ready for an even bigger battle ahead!
You can read the committee final report and recommendation here.