Indiana lawmakers don’t seem ready to trust their redistricting work to an independent commission – but they appear poised to at least think about it.
Redistricting is the act of redrawing the lines that define legislative and congressional districts. Lawmakers remake those maps every 10 years after the U.S. Census.
House Republican leaders want to turn that process over to an independent commission. That proposal has passed the House but never the Senate.
“There is a difference of opinion as to whether this is a good idea or not a good idea,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, “Rather than continuing to debate that issue, we are going to appoint a broad-based commission to take a look over two years and come to a conclusion.”
As introduced, House Bill 1032 would create a redistricting commission to hold hearings, take public comment and recommend plans to redraw legislative and congressional districts. But leaders now plan to send the issue to a study committee for research first.
“I think it is important to tap national experts,” Bosma said.
Last year, the House passed a bill 77-20 that would have created the commission but it never received a hearing in the Senate. This year, though, Republican and Democratic Senate leaders have agreed to co-sponsor legislation to create the study committee.
“We need to move on this discussion and I think this is the year to do that,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told The Journal Gazette earlier this month.
About a dozen states give “first and final authority” for legislative redistricting to a group other than the legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But in Indiana, that wouldn’t be possible without amending the state constitution, which requires that every 10 years lawmakers set the number of House and Senate members and “apportion them among districts” according to number of people counted in the federal census. The key is that every district should have the same number of constituents.
As introduced, HB 1032 would have allowed lawmakers to take a final vote on the redistricting plan if required by the constitution.
The goal, Bosma said, is to help take the politics out of redistricting.
“In my experience an independent redistricting has the potential to take the partisanship out of it,” Bosma said. “I’m very interested in seeing whether that has been the experience in the state that has done them.”