Before the Indiana legislative branch received census data to redraw districts for the next decade, this League of Women Voters member sat down with Senator Phil Boots to discuss how to empower voters with more competitive district maps.
We discussed how districts that always swing for one party leads voters to justify staying home on most election days, and leads candidates to appeal only to their base, instead of listening to diverse voices and representing their whole district.
Boots countered that part of the problem is the lack of candidates willing to run for the other side.
“Running for office is a challenge. It’s a challenge for people to put themselves out there,” Pam Dechert, former candidate in House District 88, told the IndyStar in November. In his IndyStar column last week, James Briggs’ noted that the status quo in redistricting ensures that most races are pre-determined and that many running on a non-Republican ticket are “always working, never legislating.” He asks the question: What motivates non-Republicans to run? Ambition or masochism? The answer, we hope, is public service.
Potential candidates have a lot to weigh and learn before firing up a campaign. Running for office means asking other people for hard earned money and to volunteer their time. If there’s no fair competitive playing field, then running may feel like an experiment in defeat. Yet Hoosiers everywhere repeatedly told All In 4 Democracy’s Independent Redistricting Commission that they want more options on election day.
Yes, the state leans Republican (about fifty-six percent of Hoosiers voted for the party), but they don’t vote seventy percent for the party, though the way our districts and representation look it would appear so. Seven of the nine national districts of this year’s newly minted maps are drawn to ensure the party that drew the maps would be able to crush competitors for the next decade. The state level districts reflect the same manipulation. In neighboring Illinois, the Democratic party used the same strategy, which is why the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization since its founding, supports any and all non-partisan attempts to make democracy flourish.
The League exists because of women like Carrie Chapman Catt who prized non-partisanship. Catt united fractious suffragist groups, and her work gave life to the League of Women Voters. Thus, when the League hails efforts for voting access and against gerrymandered districts, it’s because the League supports all parties. Diverse people need diverse representation options.
This is why the League of Women Voters Montgomery County is co-sponsoring the Purdue Extension Office event called “Running for Office” on November 30. This event will inform the public about the process, encourage citizens to run, and educate possible candidates about what they need to know. It runs from 6-8pm on the third floor of Fusion 54 and is open to all.