Independent commission may draw district lines in the future

Right now, Indiana lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district boundaries, but that could soon change. WLFI/File Photo
Right now, Indiana lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district boundaries, but that could soon change. WLFI/File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) — Right now, Indiana lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district boundaries – but that could soon change.

Changes may be on the horizon as to how congressional and legislative district lines are drawn in Indiana.

Instead of drawing the lines themselves, lawmakers are pondering the idea of creating an independent commission to take over the task.

Republican State Sen. Brandt Hershman is part of a special interim committee on redistricting. He said he’s still left with some questions about the move.

“My challenge is to make sure that what we’re doing is actually solving a problem that we know we have and that we all agree what that problem is,” Hershman said.

That problem Hershman is referring to – gerrymandering. It’s the process of drawing district lines to give an advantage to a political party, especially during election time.

According to Hershman, gerrymandering isn’t a major problem in Indiana.

“I’ve personally had virtually no complaints about our maps during my entire term in office,” he said.

The main question: if lawmakers aren’t in charge of drawing maps – who would be?

“It would be a commission comprised of a variety of non, supposedly, nonaffiliated people who would look and draw the maps,” Hershman said.

On Oct. 17, the committee took a final vote on a final draft which calls for an independent commission. While a majority of members voted in favor of the final draft, Hershman voted against it.

According to Hershman, there were eight amendments nobody had seen, and some committee members never saw a final copy of the amended bill.

“If people wanna make change, that’s OK. I just wanna sweep the details to make sure that we’re doing it right,” Hershman said.

Justin Notoras, the Democratic candidate for District 7, will be running against Hershman in November’s election. He has his own opinions about the move.

“I think an independent commission should be in charge of drawing it,” Notoras said.

He wants to ensure there is no gerrymandering.

“It’s kinda like a sports team writing up their own schedule; you know you might have your advantages or your disadvantages to that,” Notoras said. “When it’s an independent commission doing it, you’re less likely to have the gerrymandering going on.”

Hershman suspects legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly in January. He thinks it will receive consideration in the House and Senate.

As far as a timeline, he said he can’t speculate on that just yet.

“We’ll continue to discuss this issue,” said Hershman. “As I said with many things that seem like a good idea on the surface, the devil’s in the details and we have to make sure we get it done correctly.”

Hershman said 13 states have independent commissions that draw district lines at this time.