INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis City-County Council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee has approved a map that may determine districts for the next 10 years. The full council will have to vote to approve the 2024 map, which could happen as early as the next council meeting on May 2.
Jenn Watts is an Indianapolis resident who got involved in the redistricting process because she thinks it’s important.
“If you're interested in community parks, or community gardens, or about parking, those decisions are made on a city county level,” she said.
Watts is one of a dozen voters who attended the committee meeting, which is the only place where public comment was heard.
Council is responsible for creating and approving the maps. Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana, gives the council credit for its attempts to be open and transparent.
“They certainly made a big attempt before they drew the maps to get public input,” Vaughn said.
Before the map was drawn, the council held ten public sessions to ask residents about what they want from redistricting. Fewer than 200 people showed up across all the sessions. But now that the proposed map is public, activists are asking for more time for comment.
"I don't believe that six months is enough when it has to be on the books for ten years,” said one man at the session.
Activists also say that the map is detailed and confusing. It was released with no explanation or information. Indianapolis resident Mat Davis thinks that the council should give people information that is easier to digest.
“There should be a one-pager put out that highlights the changes,” he said.
The maps don’t have to be finalized until November, legally. However, with the public sessions run by consulting group Engaging Solutions, and contracts with outside law firm Ice Miller to draw the maps, the process has already cost $300,000.
Activists say it’s worth knowing that citizens will be equally represented in their governments.
“I'll get out to vote, but if my vote doesn't matter, if my vote doesn't count, why go out to vote?” asked Watts.
“Voters will turn out when they know that their vote is really going to matter and could decide the election. Also, representatives tend to be much more responsive when they know they can be voted out,” said Vaughn.
Council President Vop Osili says that the council has already made efforts to get public comment, council members didn’t make it, and most didn’t like the end result.
“We could probably take another two or three years and we would not satisfy countless people. Countless. At some point, we have to make the decision. This process that we followed is a fair process,” Osili said.
Vaughn and Watts were disappointed in the committee’s decision to advance the maps despite public protest.
“When politicians are creating our maps and our voting districts, that's where the power lies,” said Watts.