An opportunity to learn more about a redistricting reform effort in Indiana and contribute to that effort will take place soon. Check the link below and a guest column by Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana for more information.
INDIANAPOLIS – The documentary “Uncivil War” doesn’t tell a pretty story.
It focuses on all the ways politicians and other unscrupulous political players work to repress and distort the will of the people. It explores the ugly worlds of gerrymandering, voter suppression and other bits of electoral skullduggery.
The documentary pays particular attention to three states – Maryland, Mississippi and … Indiana.
That our state is part of this dubious discussion should not be a surprise.
Indiana is one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. It also has one of the most restrictive voter I.D. laws in America.
This determined campaign to discourage people from voting – or from thinking that voting even matters – has had an effect.
As the documentary points out, in one recent election year when all 100 seats in the Indiana House of Representatives were up, only 56 of the races were contested. The other 44 had only one major-party candidate listed on the ballot – which meant that the voters didn’t have a choice.
The voters’ apathy revealed as much.
Most years, Indiana voter turnout is among the worst in the nation. Some years, it is the worst in the nation.
One year, the documentary reveals, Hoosier voter turnout was below that of Puerto Rico, putting us 51st in America.
Those numbers are bad, but they don’t tell the whole story.
They don’t show what this wholesale disregard of voters’ worth and intentions does to the process of self-government.
It isn’t a coincidence that the years when Indiana has emerged as one of the most voter-hostile states were also Hoosier state government also became among the most dysfunctional in the nation.
The reason for that is obvious.
Gerrymandering rewards the candidates who are the most partisan and the most ideologically rigid. They are the least likely to be open to others’ ideas or to show consideration for values and interests that are not their own.
At its heart, government in a free society is supposed to be a mechanism for resolving differences and balancing interests.
But, when we elect people who have neither the skill nor any desire to accommodate varying points of view, then we see a government that doesn’t work.
That certainly has been the case here in Indiana in the past decade.
Time and again, we have seen state lawmakers split the state over issues that had little or no impact on the lives of most Hoosiers – often for reasons that made no sense at all.
Perhaps the most egregious example was the nonsensical fight over amending the Indiana constitution to ban same-sex unions.
Our leaders charged ahead with that ill-considered notion even though the U.S. Supreme Court was indicating at the time that it soon would rule on the constitutionality of banning gay marriages.
Either way the court went on the question, it would have made Indiana’s fight pointless.
If the Supreme Court had ruled that state bans on same-sex unions were constitutional, then Indiana’s existing law prohibiting marriages between people of the same gender would have stood and no constitutional amendment would have been necessary.
And, should the Supreme Court decide – as it did – that gay marriage should be legal and constitutionally protected, then nothing the Indiana state government said or did was going to make any difference.
That reality didn’t give our leaders any pause at all.
Instead, they set Hoosiers at each other’s throats. They did so not just because they have no idea how to broker deals and resolve differences – but because they prefer fights to solutions.
That’s the moral to this story – one that fire-breathing partisans on either side of the divide always miss.
No political party should be entrusted with unchecked authority. Both Republicans and Democrats will abuse their powers if they’re given half a chance to do so.
Our state and our nation face many challenges.
We’re not going to be able to meet them unless we bring the power back where it belongs.
With the people.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Commentary: Voter suppression in Indiana
By Julia Vaughn Special to TheStatehouseFile.com
Although we are still months away from the general election in November, certain political operatives in Washington, D.C. and across the country are busy working to impact voter turnout. Unfortunately, these people are not focused on increasing the number of Americans who cast their ballot; they are planning a systematic effort to suppress the vote and their targets are those voters already at risk of being disenfranchised: people of color, low-income citizens and the disabled.
The good news is that organizations like Common Cause Indiana and our allies in the All IN for Democracy coalition are also gearing up forthe November election. We are working to educate the public about the many forms voter suppression can take because before we can address it, we have to identify it. That’s why we are excited to announce the virtual premier of a new documentary that not only exposes voter suppression but also champions efforts to combat it, including our own effort here in Indiana to end partisan gerrymandering.
The documentary Uncivil War was directed by Richmond, Indiana, native Tom Glynn and produced by the Bertelsman Foundation. The film examines our system of government and lays bare the risks facing our democracy. From disinformation campaigns to restrictive voter ID laws and gerrymandering, Uncivil War makes it clear that voters in Indiana, and across the country, are vulnerable to these attacks.
We were planning a big event in March to host the premier screening of Uncivil War in Indiana. Then, the pandemic hit. So, we’ve decided to hold the premier screening as a virtual event to enable Hoosiers across the state to access this important film about an issue with which we are all too familiar. To make a reservation for the screening, go to www.allinfordemocracy.org.
From the most restrictive voter ID law in the country to attempts to purge voters without notice, Indiana has a long history of using election laws and administration to suppress turnout in certain communities. Research by credible institutions show that both voter ID and voter list purging disproportionally impact voters of color.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 percent of African-Americans lack a government issued ID – the only permissible voter identification here in Indiana. And, purging voters from the rolls because of perceived duplications also impacts black and brown voters more than whites because of a prevalence of common surnames in ethnic communities.
But voter ID and purging aren’t the only tools in the voter suppression playbook; they are just some of the most obvious ones. More subtle but just as subversive tactics abound in our state. For example, numerous early and arbitrary deadlines prevent many voters from participating. For example, In Indiana the cut-off date for voter registration comes a full 30 days before election day. And, if you need to vote by mail, that application must be made no less than twelve days before election day. Additionally, Indiana’s 12-hour election day is the shortest in the nation.
Common Cause Indiana went to court to stop overt voter suppression in Marion County when we sued the Election Board because one partisan member – the Republican – blocked early voting at satellite locations after President Obama won the popular vote here in 2008. Before our legal victory forced the change, Indiana’s largest and one of its most diverse counties had the fewest early voting opportunities.
But perhaps the most enduring form of voter suppression is gerrymandering: manipulating political districts to favor a political party, individual or group. Gerrymandering is particularly pernicious because its impact is long term – districts are in effect for a decade. And, because gerrymandering takes power away from voters and gives it to mapmakers, it removes one of the most important reasons that people vote.
People vote because they want their voices heard. They want a say in their community. They want to be recognized as an equal voice in the decision-making process we call elections. But gerrymandering silences many of us, because we live in districts that were drawn to strongly favor one side over the other. So much so that in many areas of our state, the minority party doesn’t even bother to field a candidate. Giving voters who don’t support the incumbent no reason to show up is the ultimate voter suppression success story.
If you want to learn more about voter suppression and how we and others are working to stop it, please join us for the virtual premier of Uncivil War. Register at www.allinfordemocracy.org.
Julia Vaughn is policy director of Common Cause Indiana.
Information about gerrymandering film virtual premiere June 18 plus commentaries by John Krull and Julia Vaughn was last modified: June 16th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
As Hoosiers try to navigate the phased plan for reopening Indiana that Governor Eric Holcomb launched this week, a good place to find information is at backontrack.in.gov under “What’s Open, What’s Closed?”
Western Yearly Meeting
The board meetings scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 2020, are canceled, as well as the Administrative Council Meeting which had been tentatively rescheduled for May 16 as well.
Note: Clerks and WYM staff will be in contact with board members, committee members, and representatives to Administrative Council about how needed business can be conducted.
For future updates on postponements and cancellations, visit the new “For this Time” page on the WYM website:
Back On Track Indiana information available at backontrack.in.gov was last modified: May 10th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
April 16, 2020
The Primary election date has been changed, and, because of health risks, many people won’t want to go vote at the polls. It’s likely that there will be fewer physical polling places than there have been in past elections, but it is important that all Hoosiers vote in the June 2 Indiana Primary Election. Therefore, we want you to know how you can easily vote with an absentee ballot. ABSENTEE BALLOTS DO NOT CAUSE VOTER FRAUD.
Important Things to Know:
1. Governor Holcomb has made it possible for everybody to vote by absentee ballot. But, you must first complete an Absentee Ballot Application. This application must be returned by May 21 by 11:59 pm. This application is good for any county in Indiana, just check for the return mailing address for each county on Page 2 of the application.
2. The Indiana Primary Election has been moved to June 2, 2020. Voter Registration deadline for the June 2 Primary is Monday, May 4, 2020.
Click here to download an application, register to vote or confirm you are registered to vote.
3. Once your Absentee Ballot Application is received and processed, you will be sent an absentee ballot. Your absentee ballot is due June 2 (Election Day) at noon.
4. We need help educating others about voting by absentee ballot. Please share this message with everyone (friends, family, colleagues, associates in your religious, social or other groups) to spread the word. It is unlikely that Indiana will be able to spend money to educate the public.
5. It is important we all vote in the upcoming primary, so that our voices are heard.
Shared by Indiana Vote by Mail
was last modified: April 16th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
Sometimes the effort to make a difference as bills travel through the Indiana General Assembly seems impossible, but Governor Holcomb’s veto of SB 148 sent a message that every message counts.
According to a March 26, 2020 Indianapolis Star article, “hundreds of individuals and organizations representing senior citizens, African Americans, veterans, immigrants, domestic violence and more—had all but begged Holcomb to shoot down the bill after their pleas were ignored by the Indiana General Assembly.”
As part of that group that contacted Governor Holcomb, we are encouraged to continue to weigh in on topics important to Hoosiers. See an example of IFCL correspondence to Governor Holcomb below.
Letter to Governor Holcomb
Dear Gov. Holcomb, First, thank you for taking the initiative with your announcement this week, directing Hoosiers to stay at home during this public health crisis. This act of leadership will save lives, and hasten the day when our lives and economy return to normal. I also want to urge you to veto a legislative measure, SEA 148, that will do harm to individuals and to our economy once we are past the coronavirus crisis. I understand that during this period of crisis there is a moratorium on evictions. But if you sign SEA 148 into law, after the period of public health crisis passes, two million Hoosiers who rent would be legally subject to eviction in only three days, even if they have not violated their leases. Even before the coronavirus, our state was suffering a crisis in affordable housing and evictions. The ability of many Hoosiers to afford a place to live will be greatly diminished after the public health emergency has eased, and SEA 148 will only worsen things for them. Indiana has long had a workforce shortage, and SEA 148 will adversely impact Indiana’s ability to retain a skilled workforce, especially in a possible economic recession. SEA 148 was not heard with notice and an opportunity for stakeholders to voice their concerns. Even in normal times, a bill with changes this substantial, affecting so many Hoosiers, should not be rushed into law in the last days of a short session. Now is a particularly bad time for such legislation — both cruel and against our state’s economic interests while we all attempt after coronavirus to regain our footing. Please let the 30% of Indiana’s population who rent — veterans, working families, young professionals, college students, elderly with fixed incomes, the disabled — know that their state government has their back. Especially now. Please veto SEA 148. Thank you for your leadership in these extraordinary times. Phillip E. GoodchildZionsville, N 46077
Coalition efforts prevail in final hours toward signing was last modified: April 4th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
SEA 229 will lead to loss of wetlands. Wetlands are important because they purify water, absorb excess water, and provide critical habitat for many species.
Background: In the 1800’s, Indiana’s wetlands were drained to make way for farms and towns. Only 10 – 15% of the original wetlands are left. In 2003, the legislature recognized the value of preserving the remaining wetlands and wrote the Indiana Isolated Wetlands Law. SEA 229 creates a major new exemption to the Isolated Wetlands Law for reconstruction of regulated drains.
What does “reconstruction” mean? In the Drainage Code ‘reconstruction’ includes enlarging drains or “making any major change”. It is extensive work that could damage wetlands.
How is SEA 229 a problem?
It opens a broad exemption that will hurt our remaining wetlands.
It contains a key provision which is subjective and undefined (reconstruction is exempt if itdoes not “substantially change the characteristics of the drain”).
It creates regulatory confusion with federally protected wetlands.Does the current law allow for drain reconstruction? The Wetlands Law in its current form does not stop reconstruction of drains. It just has a permit process to ensure that wetlands are preserved to the maximum extent possible and replaced when they can’t be preserved.
Take Action: Email Governor Holcomb at GovHolcomb@gov.in.gov and ask him to please protect Indiana’s remaining wetlands and veto SEA 229.
Hoosier Environmental Council urges veto to save wetlands was last modified: March 14th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
Diana Hadley, Guest Column for The Statehosuefile.com
From my 46 years as an educator, I can remember many special moments, but one of the most inspiring was the Red for Ed rally at the Indiana Statehouse last fall. As I walked within a collective red mass of over 17,000 educators and others who came to support public education, I brushed away a few tears as I experienced the positive energy of the professionals I respect so much unified as a force.
No one expected a one-day rally to solve all the problems with education, but it did ignite teacher engagement. Those who attended the rally and many who watched on the news realized this was the moment that teachers served notice. Non-educators should not control education policy.
Currently, the 150 members of the 2020 Indiana General Assembly include some retired educators, but only two working teachers, Rep. Melanie Wright, Daleville Community Schools elementary music teacher, and Rep. Tonya Pfaff, Terre Haute North Vigo High School math teacher.
That number has the potential to increase as 24 educators representing both parties have filed to run for state offices this year—and be elected if thousands of others help them.
Pfaff, elected in 2018, says she isn’t sure what the magic number of teachers added to the current mix of legislators is; but with a major portion of the state budget going to education, more educators are needed to make good decisions.
Wright, a legislator since 2014, says, “We need more teachers here for sure.”
A few other legislators have kept their teaching jobs and served in the legislature over the years, but it takes commitment, energy and organization. Rep. Sheila Klinker, a retired teacher from Lafayette, has served in the legislature since 1982 and encourages other teachers who are seeking offices. She gives credit to administrators who encouraged her to manage two important jobs for 38 and 35 years, respectively.
Like Klinker, Wright and Pfaff say they appreciate encouragement from their administrators to serve in addition to the administrators’ effort to find qualified substitute teachers to provide continuity for their students during the sessions.
In regard to the challenges, both Wright and Pfaff agree there isn’t a financial challenge. The legislative salary makes up for the lost income when they are not teaching.
However, the challenge of running for office while maintaining a full-time teaching job is exhausting. Teachers who become a part of the political process for the first time can be overwhelmed as they work after school hours to manage a staff, organize fundraising and interact with voters at events and door-to-door canvassing necessary for a successful campaign.
John Hurley, a technology teacher from South Spencer High School for 10 years, is running for state representative in District 75. He is willing to take on this work because he wants to “put public education at the forefront.” But he says he needs volunteers to help with communication, funding, phone banks, and signs as he continues to teach.
Pfaff says being a legislator is not for everyone; many teachers have family circumstances and other responsibilities that make running for office impossible. But those who cannot run themselves can help others who can in many ways that Hurley mentioned, and they must.
Educators provide a wide variety of experiences from preschool through higher education, arts and sciences to special needs. All of these plus a teacher’s sense of humanity and service are essential as educational issues are discussed and laws are passed.
Like most teachers, Pfaff and Wright believe education has become too data driven as the current testing climate has eliminated high interest projects and collaboration. Wright says, “I think the human component is missing. We have shut down creativity.”
Pfaff says that in 2010 she was in the middle of raising four children while her husband was in and out of deployments in the military. She started paying attention and realizing how legislative decisions were affecting her classroom. She didn’t have time to teach important areas that would prepare her students for higher education, jobs and the military.
As Pfaff and her husband considered her run for an open seat in District 43, she asked herself, “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”
Every educator might also ask, “If I can’t personally run, how can I help others?”
Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi is often given credit for the popular legislative observation that “anyone who isn’t at the table is on the menu.”
Teachers realize they have been on the menu long enough.
They need to be at the table.
Educators run for state offices was last modified: March 6th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
Recently, Representative Ed Soliday has fast-tracked legislation that is anti-conservative and anti-business. HB 1414 would stop utilities from making the best economic decisions for their shareholders and/or customers when they do a full financial analysis and determine that upgrading electricity production to less expensive renewables of wind and solar is best for business. While the national energy markets are investing in other sources of cost-effective energy production for the 21st century, Rep. Soliday’s bill appears to hold Hoosier energy production back in the 20th century.
During the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force study committee hearings this past year, many representatives of the coal and fossil industries testified. While several of these speakers opined on the unfairness of subsidies for renewable energy in tax credits, the costs of pollution to the air, water and soil and their negative effects on human health were not considered. When some committee members tried to raise questions about the unaccounted costs of health care for conditions such as preterm birth, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and cancer that have been associated with living near coal fired power plants, these were dismissed as irrelevant.
Did the Task Force recognize, the real dangers to Indiana water supplies that are likely with the more frequent severe rain events causing flooding along our waterways? Many toxic coal ash ponds are located next to sources of drinking water. Were such known risks even acknowledged?
The minutes from the interim study closing session state the following:
“Task Force Action: The Task Force made no findings or recommendations regarding the testimony received at the meeting. The Task Force considered a draft of an interim information report that: (1) summarizes the Task Force’s statutory directive and work program for the 2019 interim; and (2) states that the Task Force issued no findings or recommendations concerning any of the topics it considered during the interim. (See Exhibit 12.) The Task Force adopted the information report on a 10-0 roll call vote. (See Exhibit 13).”
HB 1414 seems to reach a conclusion not supported by the Task Force minutes. At best, it makes sense only if one turns a blind eye – as the Task Force leadership did in its committee hearings — to the higher costs and ill health effects of continuing reliance on expensive coal-fired power plants. Hoosiers who care about utilities’ right to choose the benefit of cheaper, cleaner energy production should oppose HB 1414.
RE: HB 1414 – A Healthy Influence of Coal Lobby on Indiana Politics? was last modified: January 24th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
The 2020 General Assembly started last Monday, and it’s a short session this year. Our legislators will be packing up and heading home by early March. That leaves us very little time to reform redistricting before new legislative maps are drawn in 2021.
We hit the ground running on the first day of session with a very successful Statehouse press conference to announce two redistricting reform bills being introduced by Sen. John Ruckelshaus-R, Dist.30. A bipartisan team of legislators attended who pledged their support for redistricting reform by publicly signing the End Gerrymandering Pledge, a national initiative championed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eric Holder.
It’s extremely important we continue to make redistricting reform visible and keep it at the top of the legislative agenda. Citizens can help make a difference right now by joining the AllIN4Democracy Lobby Day January 16.
WHAT: Redistricting Reform Lobby Day
WHEN: Thursday, January 16 at 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Indiana State Library, 315 West Ohio Street, History Reference Room
After a briefing on the status of the bills and some talking points, you are encouraged to walk across the street to the Statehouse and talk to your legislators about reform. It’s best to call their offices in advance and make an appointment. (One way to get their telephone numbers can be found at “Find Your Representative” on this website.
At least two more Republican legislators, Rep. Woody Burton-R, Dist. 58 and Sen. Greg Walker-D, Dist. 41, have publicly signed the End Gerrymandering Pledge just this week. After the struggle to find support among Republicans the last several years, this is great news! Please join us on January 16 to learn how to talk with your representatives about supporting this vital reform, then meet with them. They need to hear from us! Thank you.
Photo: After the Jan. 6 press conference, legislators sign the End Gerrymandering Pledge. Photo submitted by Phil Goodchild
Citizens encouraged to support redistricting reform Jan. 16 was last modified: January 11th, 2020 by Diana Hadley
There are high hopes on opening day of the 2020 Indiana legislative session, as IFCL participates in a press conference at the statehouse for Sen. John Ruckelshaus-R, District 30 to introduce his twin bills for redistricting transparency and for an independent redistricting commission.
Sen. Ruckelshaus and Sen. Tim Lanane-D, District 25, each spoke about this bipartisan legislation. Ten other legislators were present in support of the bills.
Then a crowd of approximately 40-50 looked on as legislators publicly signed the End Gerrymandering Pledge. Two Quakers signaled their approval.
Bill numbers will be shared when they are assigned.
Ed Morris and Phil Goodchild represent IFCL at the Jan. 6, 2020, redistricting reform press conference. Photo submitted by Phil Goodchild
IFCL supports redistricting reform bills was last modified: January 11th, 2020 by Diana Hadley