Last week Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson said she has supported for many years the concept of using an independent commission in the legislative redistricting process, as recently proposed by Senate Republicans. What she does not support, however, is the delay in implementing that concept for another decade.
In a statement on Nov. 12 Simpson said, “There is no reason that we cannot adopt the independent commission this year and improve the 2011 redistricting process,” Sen. Simpson said. “If this is a good idea for 2021, then why not institute it now?”
The idea is gaining support. From the Evansville Courier & Press Nov. 20 editorial:
But we tend to agree with Sen. Vi Simpson of Ellettsville, Democrat leader in the House, and with minority House Republicans.
They support the idea of an independent commission but do not want to wait another 10 years before seeing its creation.
For a constitutional amendment to pass, it must be approved by two legislative sessions and then by a statewide vote of Hoosiers. It would not be possible to complete that process before 2011, when the legislature will next be responsible for redistricting.
That means, with the amendment process, Indiana would have to wait for the census of 2020 and then the independent commission in 2021, presuming it passed the legislature and the statewide referendum. In the meantime, Indiana would be left in 2011 with the possibility again of seeing oddly shaped legislative districts such as Indiana’s 8th, which runs north to far away Warren County. These are districts created for the political survival of incumbent lawmakers.
Consequently, Simpson and the House Republicans say, pass legislation (not an amendment) in 2010 to create an independent commission. The panel would redraw district lines and would then present them to the legislature in the form of recommendations, which would be approved or denied by the legislature.
That would bypass the need for a constitutional amendment and would bring Indiana closer to a process in which the voters choose their representatives instead of the representatives choosing their voters.