Get Thee to the Statehouse–TODAY

Despite all of the hard work done by the coalition working on Indiana redistricting reform–despite the recommendation of the Interim Study Committee and the support of Rep. Jerry Torr,  it has been an open question whether H.B. 1014  would even be scheduled for a hearing. But just yesterday–presumably in response to consistent pressure from hundreds of Hoosiers– the Bill was scheduled for a hearing. TODAY.

I’m told there will be a rally starting at 2:30 on the east steps of the Statehouse, and many people are going to the hearing from there. Indianapolis area readers: if you can go to either the rally or the hearing, please, please do.

In case you’ve forgotten why putting an end to gerrymandering is so critically important, if you have missed my multiple, repetitive screeds on the subject, I direct your attention to this article from yesterday’s Washington Post, which identified gerrymandering as the single biggest obstacle to restoring American democracy.

There is an enormous paradox at the heart of American democracy. Congress is deeply and stubbornly unpopular. On average, between 10 and 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress – on a par with public support for traffic jams and cockroaches. And yet, in the 2016 election, only eight incumbents – eight out of a body of 435 representatives – were defeated at the polls.

If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it’s getting rid of gerrymandering – the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It’s also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens – Democrat and Republican – should be able to agree on. Indeed, polls confirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans of all stripes oppose gerrymandering.

Thanks to gerrymandering, Congressional elections aren’t real elections in the vast majority of districts. As the Post article notes, a typical race in a gerrymandered district ends with either the Democrat or Republican (whichever party has been “awarded” that particular district) winning nearly 70 percent of the vote. (That’s a North Korea-style election…)

Competitiveness is so last Century….

Last year, only 17 seats out of 435 races were decided by a margin of 5 percent or less. Just 33 seats in total were decided by a margin of 10 percent or less. In other words, more than 9 out of 10 House races were landslides where the campaign was a foregone conclusion before ballots were even cast. In 2016, there were no truly competitive Congressional races in 42 of the 50 states. That is not healthy for a system of government that, at its core, is defined by political competition….

These uncompetitive districts have a seriously corrosive effect on the integrity of democracy. If you’re elected to represent a district that is 80 percent Republican or 80 percent Democratic, there is absolutely no incentive to compromise. Ever. In fact, there is a strong disincentive to collaboration, because working across the aisle almost certainly means the risk of a primary challenge from the far right or far left of the party. For the overwhelming majority of Congressional representatives, there is no real risk to losing a general election – but there is a very real threat of losing a fiercely contested primary election. Over time, this causes sane people to pursue insane pandering and extreme positions.

The article concludes with a point I have made repeatedly: low turnout is not explained by voter apathy or even disinterest; it is explained by powerlessness–by voters coming to the perfectly reasonable conclusion that their vote no longer counts, that legislators are choosing their voters rather than the other way around.

Why bother showing up when the result has been preordained?

If at all possible, attend today’s hearing!

28 thoughts on “Get Thee to the Statehouse–TODAY

  1. On the “Viewpoints” page of the Star today is a column by Mark Russell, listed as a columnist, his E-mail address is yourvoiceforindystar@gmail.com which doesn’t sound official, more a self-appointed spokesperson…but. His column, “HB 1036 an affront to black, Latino Hoosiers” ties into today’s blog regarding the hearing today on HB 1014. I will quote Mr. Russell’s first paragraph in entirety, “Nearly 52 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — to which Indiana was exempt solely due to its geographic location — gerrymandering and the election of judges has pushed the voting rights of African-Americans into an inferior, second-class citizenship status. This sad state of affairs has bipartisan support in our legislature and is damning testimony to Indiana’s version of apartheid.”

    When “apartheid” was the law in South Africa I translated that word to mean, “keep your hides apart”, further translated to segregation. This is another result of currently partisan ruling by gerrymandering and ties HB 1014 tightly to HB 1036. The two cannot be separated as their aim is the same continuation of denying voting rights – and often providing only partisan options – to minorities.

    Mr. Russell also asks, “Where is the voice of Attorney General Curtis Hill and why is the ACLU “standing mutely and idly by as Hoosier citizens are having their constitutional rights diminished by unfairly elected legislators?”

    Mr. Russell may not have an “official” standing as spokesperson to the “indystar”; he certainly has our attention with this column. An excellent point regarding HB 2014 vote today is the 88th District, which straddles the Marion County line in the northeast corner, and has been commandeered for over 30 years by Republican Brian Bosma, with no opposition from either party, who is a primary supporter of HB 1036 – which, if enacted into law – will continue gerrymandering in its current controlling position, further denying voting rights to African-Americans, Latino and minority religious voters.

    Let me remind you that Mr. Russell’s use of the term “Hoosiers” is politically and legally correct at the federal level now. Senator Joe Donnelly and Senator Dan Coats (before leaving his senatorial seat to become Trump’s Director of National Intelligence) worked in tandem to pass into law that all Indiana residents are now officially known as “Hoosiers”. With all that was going on during the past several months at the federal and local levels; who would notice this idiocy being enacted as the law of the land?

    “Honest to Goodness Indiana”

  2. I SO wish that I could be there!

    I’ve become so cynical that even if a multitude of people show up today, HB 1014 could be struck down by Rs that simply don’t care what the people want.

    I personally called my Rep and those on the committee a couple weeks ago to request they support this bill. I always wonder if that really matters when the Rs in charge have already made up their minds on what THEY want.

  3. When will we see the “writing on the wall” and start to do something that makes a difference? Neither the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center or other pro-democracy NGO’s are in a position to help pull us out of this mess.

    We’re being “two-timed” by Trump/Pence. If we can’t handle that, then we’re wasting our time. I’m sure most of us have better things to do.

  4. Count me in for the rally.

    Two observations about gerrymandering. First, the practice is a lie. It is a lie concocted in the dark chambers of government and foisted onto a gullible public and party followers who know better but go along with the lie in order to maintain power. Second, as a lie, gerrymandering is unfair. It is unfair to everyone, not just the party out of power, but to the party in power too. Those who win elections because of gerrymandering cheat themselves, not just the voters. We all know that those elected officials who won in gerrymandered districts cheated. They lied and did not get their positions fairly. Shame on them all.

  5. The art of dealing with “two-timers” is an expertise that can only be acquired by many years of first-hand experience. You can’t learn it overnight. Try to wake-up if you can, although I’m afraid that you probably can’t. It appears you can’t escape the present POLITICAL STATUS QUO.

  6. “The article concludes with a point I have made repeatedly: low turnout is not explained by voter apathy or even disinterest; it is explained by powerlessness–by voters coming to the perfectly reasonable conclusion that their vote no longer counts, that legislators are choosing their voters rather than the other way around.”

    We cannot turn this point of view around by listening to Marv’s negative viewpoint, belittling organizations we trust and believe in. Rather than giving positive support, he continues to accuse all of us of doing nothing because he does not support those organizations who do not work hard enough for his personal primary belief; among them are the SPLC and ACLU. Both are long-standing organizations who support those in need; no, they do not and cannot support our every need or answer our every demand. They, like those of us who support them, have limitations. I suggest those who can, follow Sheila’s recommendation and request; “If at all possible, attend today’s hearing!” Attend with pride and hope in succeeding.

    I have let this go for a few weeks but will now tell you on the blog that Marv “unfriended” me on line a few weeks ago because I continue to support the Southern Poverty Law Center and will continue to do so.

  7. Spin is nothing new in politics but even spin requires some attachment to factual reality. The Trump-Pence spin goes far beyond the ordinary in that they make up their own facts and spin from there, a practice that goes beyond ordinary Lakoffian framing of issues. Sheila’s quote today tells us in glowing prose what we already knew: that gerrymandering is a threat to democracy in that it allows minority rule and encourages not voting in preordained outcome districts.
    Any help to end or even slow the effects of gerrymandering is to be encouraged not only in the name of tarnished electoral outcomes but trying to end its corrosive effects on majority rule, one of the bastions of our democracy. So yes, go to the State House and exercise your First Amendment rights loudly and clearly and fearlessly. We have had millions die to save our democracy; a walk to the State House by the citizenry seems like little by comparison, but only the setting has changed in that we are at war with those who would destroy our democracy for political gain just as surely as were at war with fascists who would destroy our democracy in the recent past. I wish I were there.

  8. JoAnn:

    “Mr. Russell also asks, “Where is the voice of Attorney General Curtis Hill and why is the ACLU “standing mutely and idly by as Hoosier citizens are having their constitutional rights diminished by unfairly elected legislators?”

    It appears that Mr. Russell can criticise but I can’t. I find that very strange. JoAnn is not one to easily admit that she is wrong or knows how to fight fair. It’s never too late to learn.

  9. Gerald,

    Good Luck! I want to be permanently out.

    P.S. I didn’t befriend JoAnn because she supports the SPLC or ACLU. JoAnn knows better than that.

  10. To those questioning if it matters to call your legislators and if they have already made up their minds – it matters. Sometimes they need a different perspective and they won’t believe people from outside their district.

  11. What I did say to JoAnn in my final response to her is the following verbatim comment:

    “You’re a feminist like Sheila. And you believe you can beat the system, by denying it. Good luck! That philosophy has been a disaster so far.”

    “It will eventually destroy us all.”

  12. Marv, this is copied and pasted from MY earlier comment regarding support of SPLC and the ACLU; “…no, they do not and cannot support our every need or answer our every demand.” I was not “wrong” in my comment; I included the disclaimer because I support the ACLU and I also understand Mr. Russell’s comment/question regarding their lack of action…so far.

    E-mail from Marv dated 1/26/2017
    “I hate to take this position, but anyone who is a friend of the SPLC is no longer a friend of mine.”

    Marv; maybe you forgot this E-mail or thought I deleted your message, whatever …. I am NOT a liar. You may carry on this conversation with yourself.

  13. Speaker Bosma is co-sponsor of HB 1014. Rep Jerry Torr (R) Carmel, is the author. They both know and understand that they have less power and control of their caucus when members are gerrymandered into uncontested districts. They do not have to compromise or cooperate with the caucus or its leaders, ever. The only time they are moved is when they know they will be primaried if they do.

  14. Verbatim full exchange with JoAnn on January 25, 2017:

    On Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 10:05 AM, Marv Kramer wrote:

    That’s not to be taken personally, but it is a political necessity.

    Trump has announced his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be a special envoy to the Middle East, just like George Bush did with Robert Strauss [and what Senator Joseph Mccarthy did with Trump’s political idol who was Jewish]. Do you believe the large Jewish representation in the media or SPLC/ADL is now going to take on Trump? There’s more chance for the “second coming” than for that occurrence to ever happen. And their actions will influence the rest of the media. They will do nothing as the Jews become Trump’s ultimate target as was the case with McCarthy and Bush.

    I apologize for not being a fool like everyone else,

    Marv

    On Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 9:33 AM, Marv Kramer wrote:

    I hate to take this position, but anyone who is a friend of the SPLC is no longer a friend of mine.

  15. I suggest to JoAnn and Marv to meet for coffee and a lively discussion which hopefully will result in finding common ground while agreeing to disagree on some stances. We need you both.

  16. Can’t we just get along…I think we’re all on the same side – or at least us regulars. 😉

    Wish I could attend the Indy statehouse. Truly wish I could.

  17. I wish that I could be more specific but I read somewhere that the enormous increase in the effectiveness of gerrymandering lately has been from the use by Republicans of some demographic big data software that shapes districts to maximize the effectiveness.

    One result is outlandishly shaped districts.

  18. Gerald,

    “Stick around; value the ends over the means etc.”

    Gerald, we’re not seeing the same thing. We are involved in two very different PROCESSES that lead theoretically to the same END. The “ends” are exactly what I’m worried about. Your MEANS are in conflict with mine. And I want out.

    In my opinion, your means won’t make it in time. Hopefully, now you can understand why I want a PERMANENT separation.

    As always between us, this has been a very vital discussion.

    Kate S, I’m not looking for common ground. It’s not there for me. I’m being forced to play someone else’s game. That’s just the way it is. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

  19. I told some friends at work that it may be time for torches and pitchforks to put some real fear into the legislature. If they collectively realize the game is changing, the smarter ones may respond to alternatives, but I can’t see that happening without instilling fear.

  20. Pete; this quote from you depicts the results of frequent gerrymandering for better leverage come election time. “One result is outlandishly shaped districts.”

    It is not only the outlandish shaped districts but some districts straddle city and/or county lines; bringing into “play” multiple city, county, township, school districts, public safety, zoning ordinances, laws, rules and regulations to contend with. Possibly; this is why Brian Bosma has represented the 88th District in the northeast corner of Marion County for so long. Being reelected last November, he is currently serving in his 31st year – uncontested by even another Republican – as Representative for that district. Last year he was opposed by Democratic candidate Dana Black who gave him a battle; he realized during the last few weeks of the campaign that she was here and he finally began campaigning. Prior to that time; he didn’t bother, knowing he was a sure winner. Dana Black will run again in 2018 and she will be a known contender at that time and a seasoned campaigner. Hopefully; the hearing today will be well attended enough to keep the issue in the public forum and promote change.

  21. I just attended the hearing on HB 1014. Thanks to the many supporters of fair redistricting who showed up to support the bill. After moving the hearing to the House chambers to accommodate the large crowd, and allow all who wanted to to speak, the Elections Committee Chair, Rep. Milo Smith, ruled that no vote on the bill would be allowed today. With the second reading deadline for bills fast approaching, he may have effectively killed the bill singlehandedly. I am not sure how to proceed, but we might start with sending calls and emails to Rep. Milo Smith, and to House Speaker, Brian Bosma, to demand that a vote be taken in committee to keep the bill alive.

  22. Why bother showing up?

    SHOW UP AND VOTE because legislators and Congresspersons are not the only candidates who matter. Presidents like Trump, Governors like Pence, mayors, local prosecutors, and sheriffs who spend more time deporting immigrants who are Social Security violators than murderers and rapists ALL matter.

    Having said that, call everyone you know who lives in the Columbus area and ask them to contact Representative Milo Smith to urge him to PASS H.B. 1014.

  23. This is just another reason I’m not alarmed by all the cries that Trump is the “worst thing to happen to our democracy”.

    WE. DON’T. HAVE. A. DEMOCRACY.

    It’s more like a Kleptocracy which is really not different than Russia. The collusion between the Oligarchs and our politicians (Ruling Class) has been documented for years. In fact, some would argue we never started with a “representative democracy” because we ruled out blacks and women, and poor working class voters (non-capital owners).

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