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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Study: Indiana more gerrymandered than 95% of country

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Indiana’s electoral maps are more partisan than 95% of the country, according to a study released by Women4Change Indiana.

The nonpartisan advocacy group commissioned a study on the issue from Dr. Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington University who is a national expert on gerrymandering ­— the political process of manipulating voting districts to gain an advantage or put the opposing political party at a disadvantage.

Using data and maps from the past 50 years, Warshaw found Indiana maps were “relatively balanced” up until about 2000, after which state Republicans have had a larger advantage over Democrats.

Electoral maps were redrawn in 2011 following the 2010 census. As Republicans controlled Indiana following the 2010 midterms, Warshaw said the maps were drawn to benefit the Republican Party. In the past, Republican candidates may have gotten about 53% of the vote in statewide elections, but in recent years, Warshaw said Republicans have won around 78% of congressional seats and 80% of state Senate seats due to Democratic voters being “packed” into fewer districts.

Warshaw said it’s important to note members of both major political parties have historically used gerrymandering to their benefit.

“We should demand that elected officials pass fair maps and hold them accountable if they don’t,” Warshaw said. “If you’re a Democrat in a Democratic state like Massachusetts, you have to be willing to vote Democrats out of office if they make [unfair] maps. Likewise if you’re a Republican in Indiana. You’ve got to be willing to hold officials accountable.”

Rima Shahid, executive director for Women4Change Indiana, said gerrymandering makes it impossible for Hoosiers to truly be represented.

“We live in a nation in which we have a government that is for the people, by the people,” Shahid said. “The folks we have elected to represent us and the interests of our families and communities, whether that’s in the Indiana Statehouse or Washington, D.C. With gerrymandering … the way they’re drawing the map, the person in office may not represent you and what you want to see happen.”

Jay Yeager, a lawyer and volunteer with Women4Change, said this lack of representation paints a flawed picture of the political makeup of the state.

“We see these effects in our polarized General Assembly today,” Yeager said. “One party holds supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate that exceed by wide margins the share of votes that party earned on election day. As a result, moderates are squeezed out, our legislature can and often does ignore the views of over 40% of voters, public confidence suffers, and Indiana’s rank in voter turnout among states continues to languish in the bottom 10.”

Women4Change Indiana will host an event in September for Hoosiers to learn more about gerrymandering and how the maps are made. Shahid wants more transparency from state legislators who make the maps, including having their meetings open to the public. The district maps will be updated in September, using information from the 2020 census.

Shahid hopes getting more voters — particularly women — involved in the process will help create a local government more representative of the Hoosier state.

“Women represent 51% of the state’s population,” Shahid said. “We make up a majority of the population, we are your largest voting bloc, and traditionally, we are responsible for bringing up the next generation of Hoosiers.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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