Today, a group of Indiana newspapers — including the Evansville Courier & Press — launches a campaign aimed at convincing state lawmakers to redraw congressional and legislative districts based on common community interests and not on political advantage.

Last year, the newspaper group, led by the Indianapolis Star, successfully campaigned for ethics reform measures intended to lessen the influence of lobbyists.

This year, the group is taking on two causes: Township government and redistricting. Already, readers have had made available to them a number of insight pieces on Indiana's outdated township government system. And now we take up the method used in Indiana for redrawing districts.

Under normal circumstances, it probably would have been better to wait until next year for redistricting, dealing with one issue per session. But in the case of redistricting, time is in short supply. Unless the legislature acts during the next two months, Hoosiers will be stuck for another 10 years with monstrosities such as our own 8th Congressional District, which runs from the Ohio River to near Lafayette and makes no sense in terms of combining communities of common interest.

Thus far in the nearly monthlong legislative session, little has been said about redistricting because, lawmakers say, they cannot act until the new Census figures for Indiana are delivered to them sometime in February.

However, we would suggest that what is more important is deciding right now what method will be used to redraw the districts, even before the numbers arrive.

While numerous other states have adopted non-partisan systems for drawing up congressional and legislative districts, Indiana has stuck with political gerrymandering, allowing the party in power to draw up district maps to their advantage. The expression that became popular last year among critics of gerrymandering was that the political parties pick their voters instead of the voters electing their public officials.

So unless something changes, the Republicans — now with complete power as a result of the November election — can sit down and draw districts to their advantage. Of course, last year when Democrats controlled the Indiana House, they could have carried the issue to the people of Indiana, but instead, then-House Speaker Pat Bauer said that redistricting was a "distraction."

So here is the choice that Indiana Republicans face this year: They can do it the old gerrymandering way, and to heck with everyone else. Or they can be real leaders, and agree to create a system of redistricting based on non-political criteria, choosing where they can to honor township and county boundaries, while combining communities of common interest.

We in Evansville and Newburgh and Mount Vernon have little in common with Pine Village, Ind. That's in Warren County, Ind., and it is also in the 8th Congressional District. But it is closer to Chicago than to Evansville. There is no excuse why Vanderburgh and Warren counties should be in the same congressional district, other than that 10 years ago someone saw a political advantage in putting them together.

And yet, if the legislature does not correct the policy during the current session, Indiana will be stuck with politically inspired districts for another 10 years, and Hoosiers would have to wait until the 2020 Census to correct this shameful product of gerrymandering.

The Republicans are in clear control of this situation, and a number of them have spoken favorably of positive changes. Former Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita, now a congressman, was a leader last year in trying to build support for districts of common interest. State Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel supports the creation of a non-partisan commission to redraw districts. And Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has said new maps would be based on logic and not on politics.

Good. Time is of the essence.

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