Redistricting Reform Needed to Address Environmental Harm Caused by Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is the “practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries.”

Update: March 10, 2018

  1. Read this summary of the general rationale for why redistricting is urgently needed.
  2. Show your support for comprehensive redistricting reform by contacting Speaker Brian Bosma (at 317-232-9677) to support SB 326*, a bill that would establish first-ever standards (e.g., districts must take into account “communities of interest,” whether demographic, socioeconomic, etc.) for how Indiana draws legislative maps; when you contact your State Senator, please be sure to tell him or her that you want to also see an “an independent redistricting commission” for Indiana.
  3. Follow the work of the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting, of which HEC is a proud member.

*SB 326 passed out of the Indiana State Senate on Feb. 5, 2018, but was denied a hearing in the House Elections Committee, which is chaired by State Rep. Milo Smith (R-Columbus).   The idea of contacting Speaker Brian Bosma is to let him know how much the public cares about redistricting reform, as Bosma could have kept SB 326 alive either by pushing House Elections Chair Smith to hear the bill or have the bill re-assigned to the House Rules Committee.   While SB 326 will not become law in the 2018 session, Speaker Bosma should still hear your message, whether you reach during or after session.

The Case for Redistricting Reform from an Environmental Lens

Regardless of your politics, you want to live in a community where there is little to no risk to your drinking water and to your air.   But gerrymandering provides at least four barriers to Indiana making foresighted decisions for our environment.

Number 1: When 92% of the seats in the Indiana State Senate are uncompetitive, as was the case in the 2016 Elections, it depresses interest not just in voting but in civic engagement in general. And when large portions of the public are demoralized, the public voice will be necessarily lower than it ought to be, and the special interest voice will necessarily encompass a broader proportion of the messages that lawmakers are hearing.

Number 2: Non-competitive districts lead to situations where lawmakers can afford to ignore a large degree of discontent by a portion of their constituency.

We saw this play out in this year’s deeply controversial anti-solar energy bill, Senate Enrolled Act 309. A legislative aide told HEC that the senator that he works for had received “dozens and dozens of calls opposed to that bill” and zero – zero in favor of it, and yet voted for the bill anyway.

Number 3: With districts that are drawn to be non-competitive in the general election, the fight often moves to the primary campaign – ultimately yielding ideological decision-making in the Statehouse.

As a 2007 Stanford Business School study concluded, “relative to general-election voters, primary voters favor more ideologically extreme candidates.” And what does this mean for the environment? Legislation today is far more ideological in a nature than 10 years ago.

Number 4: Urban environmental interests are often diluted due to gerrymandering.

The influence of urban areas in Indiana has been seriously reduced by the carving out of a single city – Indianapolis — in such a way that rural and suburban areas dwarf urban interests. We see that in Indiana State Senate District 36 (SD 36) as an example. It encompasses not one, not two, but arguably five communities of interest. The more urban parts of this district have  more of an interest in recycling, water quality protection, and mass transit. And yet the prior Senator representing this severely gerrymandered district voted to tie the hands of city governments to curtail plastic bag waste and that prior senator in SD 36 emphasized road widening over a robust mass transit plan.

What HEC has been doingThe Hoosier Environmental Council is a proud member of the “Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting,” which is a diverse array of organizations and citizens from all over Indiana who are united in their quest for the Indiana General Assembly to enact badly needed redistricting reform.   HEC has participated in Rallies and Committee hearings for reform, participated in coalition/strategy meetings, spoken up in press conferences (see 19:40), and testified before Committees (see 39:10).

Take Action: Please learn about events and specific opportunities to take action by going to the Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting Reform’s Facebook page!

Learn More: An excellent video on redistricting solutions can be found here.