Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Need for Political Competition - Reforming Indiana's Redistricting System

During the last couple weeks, we have witnessed politicians turn their back on the will of the people to an extent I have never seen in my years in politics. There has been a loud rour of protest against people having their taxes raised to to bail out the Capital Improvement Board and to give yet more tax money to our professional sports franchises. Yet despite that clearly expressed opposition Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Senator Luke Kenley and the Indiana General Assembly is poised to do exactly that. Time will tell if Mayor Ballard can convince the Republican mjority on the Council to enact the tax increases. If he is success full, he will undoubtedly ensure the Republicans return to minority status after the 2011 election and the keys to the 25th Floor are turned back over to the Democrats.

At the same time Mayor Ballard and the Indiana Senate were turning their backs on the will of the people on the CIB matter, the Indiana Senate approved Senator Mike Delph's Senate Concurrent Resolution 95 which would establish a legislative study committee that would explore changes to Indiana's current redistricting which assures that most elections are not competitive. The two events are not unrelated.

When I ran for the Indiana House in 2000, not a single incumbent lost in the House or in the Senate. We are talking 125 races and not a single challenger was able to defeat an incumbent. Although some of my reform-minded friends, mistakenly I believe, point to the need for public financed elections as a way of leveling the playing field between challengers and incumbents, that is focusing on a symptom and not the disease. The disease is that legislative districts are deliberately drawn to be non-competitive, so that a Republican or a Democrat will win. If they were competitive much of the money problem would be resolved. Contributors do not want to give money to people they think do not have a chance win. A legislative challenger in Indiana has a very small chance of winning.

The connection between the CIB issue and the Senator Delph's bill is that our elected legilators do not fear the wrath of voter outrage over the CIB matter when they are in noncompetitive districts. By the time the general election arrives, most have their re-election sewn up. Many do not even have competition in November.

While SCR 95 would only establish a summer study committee to consider the issue of Indiana's current redistricting system, it is a step in the right direction. I join the Indianapolis Star in endorsing its passage so that Indiana can work toward truly competitive elections.

1 comment:

jabberdoodle said...

Gerrymandering is, indeed, a huge piece of the structure that keeps government in the hands of special interests and lets 'boss hogs' run amuk. Bosma and Bauer leap immediately to my mind.

The Legislators aren't the only ones with a stake in fiddling with the disticts. Congressional districts are drawn nearly house by house.

Two hurdles that I see - a positive vote by the Indiana House and then who actually gets appointed to serve on this study committee.