Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm puts it perfectly: “There’s not a single thing that would do more to improve the state of our republic,” he told me, “than to eliminate gerrymandered political districts.”
The benefits are clear and would be sweeping. Nonetheless, years of efforts to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission have failed to overtake a system in Indiana that, like most other states, lets state lawmakers craft districts for themselves and their political buddies.
What are the benefits of eliminating gerrymandering? Where do I start?
Extreme partisans on both sides of the aisle would see their influence diminish at the Statehouse. More voters would have real choices during November elections. Statehouses would better represent the voters they are intended to reflect. The creation of more swing districts influenced more heavily by moderate voters would encourage legislative compromise.
It’s not a panacea; politics is supposed to be, and always will be, a messy process, after all. But, as Boehm said, taking the power of drawing legislative districts away from partisans with clear self-interests in mind would be great for the republic, and for Indiana.
No longer would the vast majority of general elections be foregone conclusions. No longer would a huge majority of lawmakers worry most and perhaps only about the most partisan of primary voters. No longer would engaging in compromise rank among the most risky of political acts.
“There is the matter of fairness,” Boehm said. “But the positive consequences would go far beyond that.”
More than 30 years after he led a legal challenge to Indiana’s gerrymandered district boundaries, a challenge that drew national attention before falling short in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s high court is once again looking at the issue. An upcoming case out of Wisconsin could do to gerrymandering what decades of common-sense…