ANDERSON – If Indiana is going to change how legislative districts lines are redrawn following the 2020 census, Sen. Tim Lanane may now be offering the best opportunity.
Once every decade, after the U.S. census count is completed, members of the Indiana General Assembly are tasked with redrawing the state’s nine Congressional districts and 150 districts in the Indiana House and Senate.
A summer study committee in 2016 recommended that a nonpartisan citizens commission be established to draw the maps, but although bills have been introduced to establish the commission, it has not been approved by lawmakers.
For several years Lanane, D-Anderson, the leader of the Democratic Party in the Indiana Senate, has introduced legislation to establish the nonpartisan redistricting commission.
“The best time to change the process is this year,” Lanane said of the 2019 legislative session. “There could be a last-ditch effort in 2020, but that is an election year.”
Lanane said there is bipartisan support among Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to reform the system.
“Last year the House passed the legislation but it was stopped by Republicans in the Senate,” he said. “There was support in the Republican caucus for the bill.”
Lanane said House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) supports creating the redistricting commission but that Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, chairman of the Elections Committee, is opposed to it.
Walker introduced legislation this year to establish standards for the drawing of the maps. Walker called the effort a “baby step” toward redistricting reform.
The bill passed the Indiana Senate but failed to get a hearing in the Elections Committee of the House, despite the fact that Rep. Milo Smith, chairman of the committee, was a House sponsor.
The bill would set up certain criteria for lawmakers to follow when drawing the maps, such as determining how many people could be in each district and minimizing the number of counties and cities divided up. It does not address changing who makes the decisions, which reform advocates are clamoring for.
Lanane said the legislative districts should be drawn to keep counties and cities in the same districts and to make them more competitive.
“I will be reaching out to the committee chairman to at least get a hearing on the legislation,” he said. “This is a long legislative session, so the topic can be studied.”
Lanane has also introduced legislation to allow for same-day registration to cast an Election Day ballot.
Currently Indiana law requires a person to register to vote 30 days before the election.
“Other states allow registering to vote right up to Election Day,” Lanane said. “We should at least take a look at how they allow registrations.”
He said the proposed legislation would guarantee that a person is not registered to vote in another precinct to prevent fraud.
“The right technology is available to find out if a person is registered to vote in another county,” Lanane said. “It would encourage people to vote.”
He said there may be some costs to implement the new registration procedure for counties to have access to the state voter registration lists.
“I’m going to see support from some Republicans,” Lanane said. “This shouldn’t break down along partisan lines.”