Ten years ago, Brian Bosma made voters a promise.
Put Republicans in charge of the Indiana House of Representatives, he said, and you’ll see an end to partisan redistricting. He said his party would create a nonpartisan commission and put the process in the hands of voters.
The voters did give Republicans a majority, and Bosma became speaker of the House, a position generally considered the most powerful in the state when the General Assembly is in session. His promise, though, seemed to get lost in the transition.
The redistricting effort in 2011 wound up exactly as it had always been, a process carried out by politicians almost entirely behind closed doors.
That’s not at all what Bosma was advocating when the Democrats were in charge. He argued then that the maps drawn by the majority party were giving the voters fewer choices.
Bosma noted that in at least 80 of the 100 House districts, the election was effectively over before the first vote had been cast. That left no more than 20 districts where voters had a real choice.
And that, he said, caused Hoosiers to lose interest in the process and stay home.
Bosma had reason to be frustrated. Twice in a row, Democrats had been in charge of the once-a-decade redistricting process, and they had done all they could to keep their advantage.
In 2002, the first election with a new set of Democratic maps, Republicans racked up nearly 60% of the vote in Indiana House races but won fewer than half of the seats.
Now, with the Republicans in charge, the balance has tipped in the other direction. In 2018, the four Republicans running statewide won somewhere between 51% and 59% of the vote. The party, though, controls 80% of the Indiana Senate, 67% of the Indiana House and 78% of the state congressional delegation.
And those one-sided districts where the election is over before it starts? They’re just as common now as they were when Democrats were in charge of the process.
Bosma, who announced in November that this session would be his last, already knows the solution to this problem. He has one more chance to make it happen, to deliver on that promise he made a decade ago.
It’s time for the speaker to convince his colleagues to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission.