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Evansville audience warns legislators against the effects of gerrymandering

As a group of Indiana legislators began a second day of public hearings Saturday on the upcoming redistricting process, they heard testimony from an Evansville audience that sounded a lot like the testimony that they had heard in other Indiana cities on Friday.

One speaker after another urged the joint meeting of the Indiana House and Senate election committees to draw new congressional and legislative district maps that are not manipulated for political advantage — while calling attention to the Indiana 2011 redistricting, controlled like the upcoming one by Republican majorities in both chambers and cited by critics and one of the nation’s clearest instances of gerrymandering.

Testifying before the joint hearing Saturday morning, Margaret Connolly of the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana told legislators that the one-sided elections that result in both parties as a result of gerrymandering discourage citizens from bothering to vote.

“Indiana has a history of very low voter turnout and it has been declared one of the most gerrymandered states in the country,” she said. “I think these two things are related.

“I frequently hear, ‘Why should I vote? My vote doesn’t count.’”

Cheryl Schultz, chair of the Vanderburgh County Democratic Party, told the panel that the 2011 redistricting led to some of the nation’s most extreme public policies on right to work, the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws and rollbacks in public health protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I ask that you would consider creating fair maps,” she said.

Kathy Parks of nearby Haubstadt, who retired after 43 years as an educator, urged that independent professionals be put in charge of an independent redistricting process.

“I implore you to show courage, to show confidence that you can win an election that isn’t rigged,” she told the panel. ” … Forty-three years from now, you’ll be glad that you did.” — The Indiana Citizen