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Democrat tells Columbus audience that redistricting hearing offers “the illusion of transparency”

The Indiana state legislators who will spearhead the state’s upcoming redistricting process were front and center at a hearing in Columbus on Friday — but it was an 87-year-old former mayor of nearby Bloomington who drew some of the biggest applause.

Tomilea Allison (above),  a Democrat who served three terms as mayor from 1983-1995, testified before one of four joint public hearings held Friday on redistricting by election committees from the Indiana House and Senate; four more are scheduled for Saturday.

She took note of findings that Indiana’s 2011 redistricting process, controlled like the upcoming one by the House and Senate Republican majorities, resulted in some of the most politically manipulated maps in the nation.

“I’m too old to play games,” Allison told the Republicans on the committee. “I know you drew the lines in your favor in 2011. I know you will do it again.”

She was among about 90 who attended the hearing held on the Ivy Tech Columbus campus.

Also drawing applause was one of the Demcrats on the panel, state Rep. Matt Pierce, also of Bloomington, who told the audience that the public hearings were being held only to provide “the illusion of transparency.”

He also called attention to a Thursday report in The Indiana Citizen that Republicans have hired Washington-based attorney Jason Torchinsky, who is known nationally for litigating against independent redistricting.

The real redistricting process, he said, will occur behind closed doors where “political consultants will input massive amounts of political and demographic data into a computer that runs hundreds, if not thousands, of redistricting scenarios, to find just the right ones that will maximize the number of legislative and congressional seats for the majority party.”

Testifying toward the end of the 80-minute hearing was David Springer, who travelled from the Indianapolis area and told legislators, “It feels like our votes don’t matter and that’s really hard. And you have an opportunity here to make the world a better place in a very real way … that’s something you tell your children, that’s something you hope for,  as you’re coming up in the world, and you actually have the ability to do it.”

He took note note of the classroom setting — and the public scolding that Republican legislators on the panel had been receiving during the past hour.

“I’m asking you, please, listen to what the people here have asked for. We want practical solutions, we want transparency, we want fairness, we want our votes to matter. So please, appoint an independent, nonpartisan commission to oversee the redistricting. Make these meetings accessible to everyone.

“And maybe you won’t have to sit here like you’ve been called to the principal’s office.” — The Indiana Citizen