City resolution urges redistricting process attention
How can Indiana, Putnam County and Greencastle assure themselves of ”more robust and interesting elections” in the future?
Elections with candidates from both major parties? Elections that aren’t decided in the primary?
By paying better attention to redistricting guidelines, stresses a new resolution passed by the Greencastle City Council at the urging of the Putnam County League of Women Voters as represented by five members at the January Council session.
Resolution 2017-2 was passed unanimously by the seven-member Council following a presentation by Karen Martoglio and Ann Newton of the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization that has been monitoring the statewide efforts of the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting.
Martoglio noted that 90 percent of the Indiana races in 2016 were decided in the primary election and that in 46 percent of Hoosier districts, only one candidate was on the ballot.
State Senate districts within Greencastle are a prime example, Martoglio noted, of how redistricting “directly impacts us.”
Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) was re-elected recently from Senate District 37, which comes as far north as the south side of Washington Street in the heart of Greencastle. Meanwhile, District 24, now represented by John Crane (R-Avon), starts along the north side of Washington Street and continues north to the Putnam County line.
“Our voice is diluted,” Martoglio said. “Our city is split in half.”
Councilman Mark Hammer, the longest serving member of the Council at 21 years, agreed.
“I don’t like the way Greencastle is split down the middle,” he said, referring to district lines that were redrawn in 2011. “I don’t think any one of us does.”
At least Indiana’s U.S. congressional districts are “better than they were,” Hammer conceded, saying he reluctantly supports Resolution 2017-2, fearing that like how the districts were drawn, it may have been politically motivated as well.
Resolution 2017-2 encourages the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting “to produce a final report that supports comprehensive redistricting that incorporates” such things as:
-- Establishment of a citizen-led commission composed of Indiana voters who are representative of the state’s diversity, partisan balance and geography for all future redistricting. The commission would oversee the process of drawing the lines of the State Senate, State House of Representatives and Congressional districts.
-- District boundaries would be drawn according to clearly described criteria, considering such factors as: The constitutional requirement of one man, one vote; the Voting Rights Act; contiguity requirements to draw districts as one connected area; community of interest, city and county boundaries; political competition and compactness where they don’t conflict with the criteria previously noted.
-- The address of any individual, including an incumbent officeholder or candidate should not be considered when any district is drawn.
-- The commission should conduct a transparent redistricting process with full opportunities for public participation. At least three public meetings should be conducted in three different geographic regions of the state.
“It’s hard to be opposed to the principles here,” Councilman Dave Murray said in calling for the vote after a motion by Steve Fields and second by Gary Lemon.
Greencastle will need to undergo redistricting of its City Council wards after the next census (2020) to reflect changes in population areas, City Attorney Laurie Hardwick noted.
It will all be worth it, Second Ward Councilor Stacie Langdon suggested, “if we could get more people involved in the election process.
“People don’t want to run,” she said, “because they don’t think they have a chance.”