On Monday, May 8, the Restructuring + Activism Task Force hosted Learn How to Fight Indiana Gerrymandering in Indianapolis to continue working on our key platforms. These include:
- Redistricting reform to end gerrymandering in Indiana
- Voter participation and voting rights
- Civic education
About 300 people attended the meeting, and we were energized to feel the room buzzing with excitement and energy! Thank you to everyone who came to the event!
- Explains how to join efforts to take action.
- Provides information about the meeting for those who were unable to attend.
- Addresses feedback we received from those of you who were there.
For those of you who provided contact information in your small group session, Kate Appel is working on organizing your information so that small group leaders can follow up with you. Several of you said you’re ready for action but would like assistance in how to be effective advocates for change. We are looking at ways to provide training about approaching legislators to express your concerns and make requests.
Redistricting Reform to End Gerrymandering
Women4Change Indiana is supporting the ongoing efforts of Common Cause Indiana, Indiana Coalition for Independent Redistricting, and League of Women Voters Indiana to advance redistricting reform.
At the May 8 meeting, we watched the first 30 minutes of the documentary Gerrymandering by Jeff Reichert. You can click the link to watch the whole documentary online for free.
Then, Julia Vaughn of Common Cause talked about the current status of gerrymandering legislation in the U.S. and Indiana. She stressed that the 2018 legislative session will be a pivotal time for redistricting reform in Indiana, and we need to keep pressuring our legislators.
To continue putting grassroots pressure on the Indiana legislature, the group broke into smaller groups tasked with:
- Lobbying city council members to pass resolutions in support of redistricting reform. Councils will hopefully forward these resolutions to state legislators. We have begun the resolution campaigns for Marion County City Council and also for Carmel by reaching out to their presidents. We will post specific action requests (such as “contact your councilperson”) as soon as it is appropriate. We are looking for volunteers to lead city council lobbying in Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville. Please contact Ann Stack to volunteer or to receive more details about lobbying efforts and talking points.
- Forming a speakers bureau that will educate any interested group about gerrymandering and the need for redistricting reform. Several women, under the direction of Jean Breaux, have started to form a speakers bureau. To join the speakers bureau please contact Lydi Davidson. Contact Julia Vaughn to learn more about Common Cause.
- Developing community outreach efforts with educational house parties, nonprofits, and public events (such as farmers’ markets, etc.). Planned events include a July 17 birthday party at the Indiana Statehouse for Elbridge Gerry, the father of gerrymandering. Another rally is being planned for November (date TBD). Contact Ann Stack or Julia Vaughn about getting involved in these efforts.
Voter Participation and Voting Rights
Bonnie Horlander of Women4Change Indiana provided background the status of voting rights and voter suppression in Indiana. Bonnie noted that Indiana’s absentee voting is the most restrictive in the country. Other factors that suppress voter turnout in Indiana include:
- Only one early voting site in Marion County creates long lines and makes early voting inconvenient for many residents. Much smaller Indiana cities and towns have three or more early voting sites.
- Employers aren’t required to give workers time off to vote. Indiana is one of few states that don’t give workers time off.
On May 2, Common Cause and the NAACP filed a lawsuit that argues Marion County’s single early voting location results in unequal access to voters. The Indiana Lawyer and other media outlets provide background on the lawsuit.
To increase voter turnout, Women4Change Indiana is lobbying for Indiana to adopt voting by mail. Voting by mail has often doubled voter participation in other states. The secure system provides a tracking system that enables voters to watch their ballot move through the process (similar to a FedEx package) and a fraud-proof electronic verification system. It is estimated that a move to voting by mail will save Indiana approximately $14 million per election.
For information about participating in a Vote by Mail advocacy training session, designed to increase voter turnout in Indiana, contact Bonnie Horlander.
Sheila Suess Kennedy of Women4Change Indiana and the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI explained why civic literacy is essential. Sheila stressed two points:
- We cannot have civil conversations if we live in different realities.
- When you don’t know how systems should work, you don’t know when they’re not working.
To prevent people from becoming susceptible to demagoguery and stereotyping, people need a working knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To promote civic education, this team is leading the following efforts:
- Creating book clubs that promote knowledge about constitutional government
- Bringing the Indiana Bar’s We the People curriculum into more schools
Contact Sheila Suess Kennedy to learn how to join a book club or promote the We the People program in public schools.