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Elections & Politics

West Lafayette City Council Supports State Redistricting Reforms

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The West Lafayette City Council on Monday voted unanimously in support of efforts to reform how the state’s political boundaries are drawn. 

Currently, lawmakers draw political districts - but activists have called for an independent commission to draw legislative maps. 

Council President Peter Bunder submitted the resolution to the council but said the support is mostly symbolic. 

“We are realistic enough to assume that not much will come of this,” he said. “But if you don’t say it is much better to have a committee create districts instead of politicians then no one will ever hear that.”

Julia Vaughn is with Common Cause Indiana, an advocacy group in favor of redistricting reforms. She said currently, most of the state’s legislative districts aren’t competitive - and lawmakers have no incentives to draw more competitive maps. 

“It’s hard to hold elected officials accountable if they are guaranteed reelection,” she said. “If the only people they have to keep happy are the hard core partisans in their party.”

Not everyone thinks competitiveness is a good measure of a district, however.

Steve Klink is a Lafayette-based political consultant familiar with the redistricting process. 

“The law establishes how you draw these and ‘competitive’ is not in the vocabulary of what the law says,” he said.

And, Klink said, making districts competitive would be nearly impossible in some cases. 

“Democrats cluster in densely populated areas. Republicans are more evenly distributed across the rural landscape,” he said. “It’s the nature of that clustering that goes on that causes some of these lopsided districts.” 

The West Lafayette city council resolution called on the state legislature to be more transparent and use competitiveness as part of its criteria in drawing maps. 

Indiana’s legislative districts are set to be redrawn this year. Lawmakers announced in April that redistricting would be delayed because crucial information needed to draw districts still hadn’t arrived from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Part of West Lafayette’s resolution calls on the general assembly to set a clear date for when political districts will be redrawn to make the process as transparent as possible. 

Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) said with Republicans holding a supermajority in both chambers, she doesn’t expect to have much say in district lines, including her own. 

“You know I really wish I knew and had an idea what that district is going to look like,” she said. “I suspect I’ll find out as early as everyone else will - and that’s when we go to vote on the district.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) has said there is a plan for lawmakers to hold public hearings on redistricting across the state, starting in July.