After each national census every 10 years, the Indiana Constitution reapportionment of legislative districts to accurately reflect the updated population data. During the redistricting process, new borders are drawn for State House and Senate districts. Changing the way Indiana creates the legislative districts to a nonpartisan system would add transparency to our electoral maps and prevent potential gerrymandering in the future.
Gerrymandering is the process of creating noncompetitive voting districts during the redistricting process to make it more likely that specific candidates or political groups get elected. Currently, the Indiana General Assembly is ultimately responsible for drawing district lines. Some are concerned the political party in charge could manipulate these district boundaries to guarantee it remains in power. For example, the legislature could draw new district lines that combine communities together that should have separate representation. Communities can be drastically different and have unique values, like urban cities and rural towns. This would give some people a smaller voice than they deserve. Lines could also be drawn to split apart a large community so the minority voice is drowned out by majority voters in a different community within the same district, and they receive no representation at all.
Our current House districts for the most part keep "communities of interest" together, and to the extent possible respect the boundaries of political subdivisions (cities, towns, townships and counties). As a leading advocate for redistricting reform in the Statehouse, I want to guarantee all future election maps maintain this high standard. However, when legislators draw the map, it can give the impression they are choosing their voters. A nonpartisan redistricting commission would ensure that legislative districts are drawn to maximize the voice of voters, and ensure that ensure compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act regarding minority populations. We should also respect the boundaries of cities and counties, keep districts as compact as possible and avoid odd boundary lines. These ideals were agreed upon by a bipartisan two year study committee that I chaired, which included state lawmakers and experts outside the legislature.
While Indiana’s House districts seem to be drawn fairly, we can help ensure future boundaries are also legitimate and reduce the impression that politically biased gerrymandering occurs. Gerrymandering hampers representation in democracy. With a bipartisan redistricting commission, Hoosier voters would have full confidence that gerrymandering will not dilute their vote.
State Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) represents House District 39, which includes portions of Hamilton County.
A high-resolution photo of Torr can be downloaded by clicking here.