The State Senate Committee on Elections heard twenty-four people testify regarding the newly drawn maps for Indiana voting districts on Monday, September 27.
Quakers Phil Goodchild, Mary Blackburn, Sonia Leerkamp and Michael Squires were four of those speakers.
Mary Blackburn described her Quaker heritage and her parents’ emphasis on democracy as she made the case that the present maps do not promote democratic engagement.
Phil Goodchild, speaking specifically as a representative of Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation, emphasized trust as a key element of the voting process. He noted that the Indiana process for redistricting in which legislators can draw district lines that provide a safe path to re-election doesn’t foster trust or serve the voices of many Hoosier voters.
Sonia Leerkamp, speaking as the chair of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, emphasized the importance of an independent commission to do the mapping process and promoted the maps drawn by the public through the ICRC initiative.
Michael Squires, Bloomington, said the Indiana public is not ignoring the process and that many conservatives and conservative organizations are not fans of redistricting that deepens political divisions.
See TheStatehousefile.com coverage of the hearing below.
Passionate citizens dominate the Senate hearing, Republicans still on track to get their maps
By Haley Pritchett
The Senate Chamber was filled with outrage and passion on Monday.
Around two dozen citizens spoke at the public hearing regarding the Senate-proposed redistricting maps, and not a single one of them approved.
Many sported “reform redistricting now” buttons on their chests.
Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, started the hearing by stating the goals kept in mind while drawing the maps. Some of those were to make the process transparent, strive to maintain communities of interest and keep compactness among the districts.
He also emphasized that the maps met all federal and state legal requirements.
But citizens challenged the effort and effectiveness of each of those goals.
One of the main issues that was continuously brought up was the lack of competition among districts, otherwise known as gerrymandering.
“Competitiveness is not a legal requirement,” Koch said.
Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, is an immigrant from the Middle East, an area that still struggles with the concept of democracy. He said because of this, he understands the value of democracy over self-interest.
The proposed maps would secure his legislative seat, he said. But he will vote against them.
“I personally will not support any map at the expense of our democracy,” he said.
Although the architects of the maps claim they strove for transparency, citizens claimed the maps were intentionally hard to read, especially because they were located on the Republican party’s website.
Theresa Bruno, who ran for state senate in 2020, was about to pot her plants this morning when she got a text from a friend asking if she would be attending the hearing. She did not know about the public hearing Monday until 8 a.m, an hour before it started.
“For someone as involved as I am, for me not to know about this …” she said.
Mary Kohen, from Columbus, said that the room did not represent Indiana. Because of the timing of the meeting and the lost hope for change among some Hoosiers, not many people could be there.
She herself did not find the maps easy to read.
“I am 60 years old, I have 60-year-old eyes, but I think even if I had 20-year-old eyes, I would not have been able to discern what these maps were and what they were trying to do,” she said.
Robert Lee Buggs, a veteran, urged legislators to consider the oath they take when they say the Pledge of Allegiance. And he asked legislators to think of a line from scripture next time they go to church: “That you do to the least of them, you do to me.”
Pauline Spiegel, a concerned citizen, said that the biggest issue is that the supermajority currently does not have to defend its ideas.
“That is a big problem,” she said. “If you don’t have to defend your ideas, you don’t have to have good ideas.”
The Senate Committee will vote Tuesday on the proposed maps, and if the bill passes, it will go to the full Senate.
Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Phil Goodchild’s Testimony at the Sept. 27, 2021, Senate Elections Committee Redistricting Hearing on HB 1581
I am Phil Goodchild with Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation, a non-partisan Quaker group that has advocated for better government in Indiana since 1972. I live in Zionsville, in Boone County. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Trust. That’s what redistricting is really all about. This supreme exercise in deciding who will represent us comes down to simple trust.
Of course complying with legal requirements is important. You appear to have done that, although legal challenges to your maps wouldn’t surprise me at all. But the public’s perception that redistricting was conducted openly, deliberatively, and fairly is even more important. Looking at HB 1581 and the new maps created by the House and Senate, it is very hard to conclude that redistricting this session has been done in a trustworthy way.
You and the House claim to have listened to the public, but you listened only to what you wanted to hear. You said you prioritized keeping communities of interest together, and divided fewer municipalities and counties, but as it turns out your maps just “pack” like voters into fewer districts, wasting their votes. Just ask residents of urban communities in Marion and Lake Counties.
What you completely ignored were the many, many calls for districts that are more competitive. That, along with a more transparent and inclusive process, was what citizens called for again and again, both during the elections committees’ hearings and in the ten hearings held around the state by the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission. Instead, what we are getting in this bill are new state and congressional maps even less competitive, with even more “safe” Republican districts, than the existing maps.
Organizations like mine really wanted to have trust in your redistricting process this time, but you failed us. By giving us maps that guarantee Republicans will retain control no matter what voters want, you have squandered public trust. You valued public input only so far as you could use it to consolidate an undeserved supermajority. You seem to have forgotten that your power is derived from the will of the people, and isn’t yours to divvy up in politically convenient ways. And so we are going to be saddled with districts that are statistically among the most gerrymandered in the country and in American history.
But in a way, you cannot be blamed for this. The fault is in the system of redistricting enshrined in our state’s laws, which puts it in your hands. I have heard personally from members how very hard redistricting has been for them this cycle. Well, it isn’t hard; it’s impossible. It is impossible to expect legislators–in either party–to give up power, to act against their own political interests, by drawing maps where they just might lose. If they can stack the deck, then they never really have to demonstrate enough confidence in their ideas to put them to the test in competitive elections using fair maps.
At the very end of the day, I trust the people of Indiana to insist on doing this the right way. And the right way is the process demonstrated by the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission. You will hear/have heard about that process today. The maps it produced do not turn Indiana into Massachusetts, but instead into something that simply looks more like who we are as a state. It’s not too late even now to slow down and honestly consider them. That should not be something that scares anyone serving in this legislature. All we want is a process as fair as Hoosiers are, and one day we’ll get it.
You can trust us on that.
Mary Blackburn’s Testimony at the Sept. 27, 2021, Senate Elections Committee Redistricting Hearing on HB 1581
Good morning. I am Mary Blackburn, a resident of Marion County and I’m speaking as a concerned citizen today. Thank you for listening to my testimony.
I would like to briefly share about my parents. They were both lifelong Republicans. My dad was a veteran of WWII, a card carrying member of the NRA and a man of his word. My father’s people were Quakers who left Ireland to seek religious freedom in the Pennsylvania colony of William Penn. My mother was a homemaker and an accomplished genealogist, who traced our family back to the Mayflower as well as another line of French Protestants coming to Maryland to seek intellectual and religious freedom. Mom was so proud of America that she served on the committee for newly naturalized citizens, welcoming them with big smiles and an American flag.
My father died in September, 2019, and prior to his passing, he frequently expressed his concern about the direction of this country. He felt that the administration was undermining democratic principles of government. My parents taught me the importance of being an informed citizen and our responsibility to vote for the persons who best represent our values and convictions.
Senators, I appreciate that the map that you present is compact and contiguous. An important factor missing is competitiveness, or in other words, giving citizens a choice. When districts are drawn to favor one party over another, this is not a representative democracy. Perhaps you are not aware of the unintended consequences of approving these maps. When one party completely dominates the other, we are on the path to oligarchy. Oligarchy is a step away from authoritarianism.
We the people, are to be governed by our consent. By accepting these maps and not the maps of an independent redistricting commission, you may regret seeing the Republican party move further toward extremism, instead of moderation and conservatism that existed for my mother and father.
I respectfully request that you revise your maps to return Indiana to a state that cares about Hoosiers thoughts and opinions.