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Reform groups’ legislative agenda targets voting rights, redistricting

The League of Women Voters of Indiana met Thursday at the Indiana State Library to discuss its legislative agenda—what bills to advocate for and against this legislative session—with a gloomy theme: “Democracy hanging by a thread.”

“We’re looking at another decade of work,” said Linda Hanson, LWV co-president.

The nonpartisan political organization’s biggest areas of concern include redistricting, voting and education, including the current ugliness of the political debate.

“When a constituent comes to your board meeting and a firearm falls out of their pocket, that is threatening,” said Terry Spraldin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, recalling recent instances of school board members being harassed leaving meetings and receiving death threats.

The General Assembly has at least 80 bills involving education introduced in the 2022 session. Senate Bill 144 would require school board candidates to announce their party affiliation when campaigning and bar current federal employees from running for a board seat.

“We believe candidates should be selected based on their merits, qualifications, strengths,” Spraldin said. “We think this will compromise the priorities and ability to put the needs of children first.”

Another issue that LWV has been working on for the long haul is redistricting.

Every 10 years, districts are redrawn based on the data given from the U.S. Census. The maps pushed to passage in 2021 by the legislature’s Republican supermajorities have been called some of the most gerrymandered in the U.S.

For redistricting reform, said Common Cause Executive Director Julia Vaughn, “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Redistricting is the way [to achieve fairer representation for Hoosiers].”

Common Cause is working with Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, on Senate Joint Resolution 14, which would amend the Indiana Constitution to shift redistricting authority from the General Assembly to an independent commission.

“This is a marathon we’re in,” Vaughn said. “It’s not a sprint.”

A couple dozen Hoosiers showed up to support advocates and learn more about the bills being authored in the Statehouse.

Attendee Valerie Hart-Craig said she cares about fair redistricting.

“There were 12,000 votes not counted, I think that is something that needs to change,” Hart-Craig said. In the 2020 election, 12,000 absentee ballots were not counted according to LWV election report. Those voters were not notified.Hart-Craig was one of the 12,000 Hoosiers that voted by mail and has not idea if her vote was counted or not.

“That is horrific,” she said.

LWV created a report based on the 2020 general election. The data collected showed that almost half of Hoosiers vote early and in person, and 16% voted absentee.

Last year, a bill that fell short of passing would have required more security restrictions on absentee voting. LWV wants to allow seven days after the election for absentee ballots to still be counted.

Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.