The Republican Party picked up nine seats in the Indiana House in last week’s election – in part because all the state’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2010 Census. The returns highlight the powerful effect redistricting can have on election outcomes.
A natural consequence of redistricting is incumbent lawmakers seeing their districts intersect. Just one race, for State House District 45 in the Vincennes area, pitted incumbents against one another this cycle. Suddenly, Rep. Kreg Battles (D-Vincennes) and Rep. Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) found themselves vying for the same seat.
“The best way I can describe is it would be best if I could be cloned. Because you still have a responsibility to the 6,500 people or so that elected you into the office,” Battles says. “But you’re also, because 80 percent of my district is brand new, you are still stuck with making sure you are getting out and campaigning and introducing yourself to a whole new set of folks.”
Battles’ new district contains parts of Sullivan and Vigo counties, whereas his old district contained sections of Knox and Pike counties.
“The whole motivation for where these lines are drawn was, at least in my mind, to gain maximum advantage,” Battles says. “That isn’t necessarily a diatribe of ‘Look at those dirty Republicans,’ because the truth is the Democrats have done the same thing in the past.”
Julia Vaughn has another vision to meet the redistricting requirements mandated by the Indiana Constitution. She is Policy Director at Common Cause, an organization advocating for creation of an independent redistricting commission. Vaughn says there’s an inherent conflict of interest in Indiana’s redistricting process.
“When legislators draw the districts, it ends up that the politicians choose their voters instead of the voters choosing their politicians,” Vaughn says.
But she adds there is little incentive for the General Assembly to change the process that helped many of them get elected.
“If citizens want change, it’s definitely going to take some pressure on everybody in the General Assembly,” Vaughn says.
Other states such as Washington and California already use independent commissions to do their redistricting.