by ANN BIRCH
President, League of Women Voters of Bloomington—Monroe County
Every 10 years, state electoral districts are redrawn following completion of the U.S. Census. This fall, the Indiana legislature will redraw maps that could either give voters another 10 years of gerrymandered districts or respond to growing public sentiment for “fair maps,” drawn in a transparent process with citizen input. The movement for fair maps is gaining momentum statewide because more Hoosiers realize that a process controlled by one political party is not independent and is more likely to result in another 10 years of single-party control.
A local Bloomington group decided it was time to join the public conversation. At first this group included just members of the local League of Women Voters. We decided to produce a video to spread the word about this looming threat: What is gerrymandering? Why the funny name? How does it subvert representative government? What can we do about it? We decided to call the video presentation “Working for Fair Voting Maps in Indiana” because that was indeed the intent.
The task of producing the video and all the supporting activities was immense. It wasn’t a matter of simply throwing together some slides. We needed to develop follow-up materials and provide ways for the public to participate directly with their legislators. As a venerable 100-year organization, the League’s mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government. We also have a history of working with other nonpartisan groups because we know that “going it alone” does not work when widespread awareness is needed. We began to reach out to other local nonpartisan organizations, seeking their input and voices. The result? A breath of fresh air, an influx of new ideas, and a growing partnership confirming that citizens working together can do more than an organization can on its own.
District election maps, now drawn to suit majority legislators, can easily be drawn to reflect Indiana’s voters more accurately if we all become involved and demand this from our legislators.
Along the video journey, more and more organizations have become involved. Our nonpartisan partners now include the Bloomington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; the Monroe County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Monroe County chapter of the National Organization for Women; Reverse Citizens United of Monroe County; and the Leagues of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County, Brown County, South Central Indiana, and Indiana. All these organizations encourage readers to contact their state legislators and urge them to support a fair and transparent redistricting process by going to iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators.
Early reactions to the video have been encouraging, and it is now available to everyone. You can find it at magbloom.com/gerrymandering. Organizations can contact the League by emailing [email protected] if they wish to view the video followed by a live Q&A.