I was in Fort Wayne last night to discuss redistricting with interested citizens. The turnout at IPFW was good and the discussion lively. There was some print & TV media coverage, and I was quoted in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Commission member Mike Kole, a Libertarian, said that incumbency trumped partisan politics in redistricting. He said Republicans would rather keep safe seats than increase their numbers if it meant incumbents running against one another in reconfigured districts.“It’s not about party. It’s about self,” Kole said.
The quote came in response to discussion on the conventional wisdom of gerrymandering. After attending several such meetings, I got the impression that people tend to think that gerrymandering happens to protect or unfairly create political power for the party in power. Yes, that’s part of it, but I believe it to be secondary.
Probably the most eye-opening revelation I have had thus far was in listening to former Indiana House member Bill Ruppel. Bill is a Republican, but he doesn’t mind to tell the story of how the party in majority holds a special meeting of their caucus, whereby the members are given pushpins and directed to a large wall map. They place the pin where they live, and the districts are drawn to protect them as incumbents.
In my opinion, if a fair district map was drawn for the Indiana House, that did not take into account where incumbents live, the Republican Party would likely gain 6-10 seats in 2012. So, why wouldn’t the Republicans be all over this? Because, again, in my humble opinion, you would see at least 30 incumbents from both parties gone in 2012, because the fair redistricting would result in some districts with two (or even three!) incumbents in them, and other districts with no incumbents in them at all.
That’s why I said that self comes before party. If party was the primary concern, the Indiana GOP would be leading the crusade for fair redrawing of the maps. This explains why, when then-Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, called for fair redistricting in his ‘Rethinking Redistricting‘ initiative, he was blasted by members of his own party. Sure, they didn’t blast him directly on point. They just blasted him. Preservation of personal power is the underlying reason for whatever they actually said.
The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Committee will host two more public meetings:
Tuesday, March 29, in Terre Haute
Thursday, March 31, in Evansville
More info on these meetings via this link.
At last, the Indiana House & Senate is going around the state with meetings at incredible inconvenient dates & times: today and tomorrow. Do they really want public input? Putting meetings on a Friday during business hours? On a Saturday morning or afternoon?
If you go to one of the meetings the House & Senate is hosting, be sure to ask them why incumbent protection ranks higher than incumbent blind drawing of the district maps.