Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rokita Redistricting Argument Flies in Face of 4th District Make Up

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita has spent a heap of taxpayer dollars getting his own name associated with the advocacy of "fair" redistricting process across the State of Indiana. The Secretary of State has nothing to do with drawing legislative districts for Congress, the Indiana House, or the Indiana Senate.

Rokita has preached the perceived need to take politics out of redistricting and to change the way the legislative district lines are drawn. Rokita's plan...again that has no teeth to it since the Secretary of State is out of his jurisdiction...would make it a felony to take political information into account in drawing districts.

He advocates following natural boundaries like township or county lines to form districts at the local and federal level thus, he argues, reducing confusion of who represents a particular constituent. Such a plan could violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Indianapolis Recorder columnist Amos Brown III wrote a great piece in September about this aspect of the story.

Whether Rokita finds any traction in the legislature or not (not likely), he won't be able to see things through to fruition. He's term limited and about to be replaced by a new Secretary of State next year.

Rokita isn't anxious to step away from the stage so quickly. He's running for Congress in Indiana's 4th Congressional District. With apologies to Stephen Colbert, let's play "Better Know a District" with Indiana's "Fightin' Fourth" and learn the lay of the land.

What is now known as Indiana's Fourth District was cobbled together from what used to be Indiana's 5th and Indiana's 7th District after the 2000 census. A bitter 2002 midterm election that saw two sitting Congressmen, then-7th District Congressman Brian Kerns and then-Fifth District Congressman Steve Buyer, battle royale in the primary for the responsibility of representing the new 4th. Buyer, who had been in Congress since 1992, won.

675,617 people resided in the 4th in 2000. 94.8 percent of the folks there were white in 2000. 2.6 percent were Hispanic and 1.5 percent were Asian. African-Americans accounted for just 1.3 percent of the population in 2000. The median income was a respectable $45,000.

Those raw numbers add up to a Cook Partisan Voting Index of Republican +14. To put it in perspective, the most Republican district in the country, Alabama's 6th, has a Cook PVI of +29. The most Republican district in Indiana is Dan Burton's 5th District with a Cook PVI of +17. While the Cook PVI shows that it's not the most-Republican District in the state, it is fair to say that few Republicans were left behind when creating the 4th.

Rokita had no input into putting together the 4th District after the 2000 census, but you do have to wonder why he would choose to run in a district that is so heavily Republican. Could it be...that he likes the political landscape? Kind of shoots his whole argument all to heck on redistricting. Maybe if elected, he plans to champion the cause for fair redistricting in Congress.

It's hard for me to not find this whole situation ironic that the man that wants to end gerrymandering has chosen one of the most gerrymandered districts in the state to make his first federal run for office.


Had Enough Indy? said...

"Rokita had no input into putting together the 4th District after the 2000 census, but you do have to wonder why he would choose to run in a district that is so heavily Republican."

I just assumed that Rokita lives in the district and the seat opened up. Does he live elsewhere?

The Truth said...

I think he's running there because that's where he lives. Make sense?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Well, maybe this is an opportunity for the electorate to get a promise from all candidates to work to end jerrymandering.

Stupid question -- Does the State Legislature have authority over the Congressional district lines? Just want to be sure.

I know Rokita has only been talking about the State Legislative districts.

Anonymous said...

Dan Coats hasn't lived, voted, or paid taxes in Indiana for 10 years. I don't know where he lives but I don't think we can assume that he lives in the 4th.

Anonymous said...

Remember Jon, Democrats controlled the House in 2001 when the districts were drawn. Rokita is running in a district that Dems created. Oh, and something I learned some time ago, FYI for your readers, you do not have to live in a congressional district to run. Unless someone changed things along the way, a Marion County resident could run for Lake County's First Congressional District. Keep up the effort Jon, I enjoy reading your blog, sometimes more than others.

Phil Hinkle

Indy Student said...

As Phil Hinkle said, candidates for the House of Reps of Congress do not have to live in the district of which they are running.

Anonymous said...

Actually you can run for any congressional district in the county. You could find a district that does not have a Democrat filed and run and get the nomination. Maybe there is a district in Idaho or Wyoming or somewhere......

Jon E. Easter said...

I am aware that Rokita lives in the 4th, so perhaps "choose" was the wrong word to use. I just found it ironic that he is trying to benefit from gerrymandering as he's arguing against it.

Had Enough Indy? said...

this thread got a bit out of sequence --

I appreciate irony. But, gerrymandering is a bane on democracy and we should be looking to see who is willing to end it. Again I must suggest that ALL candidates be questioned about helping to end the very gerrymandering that may give them the seat. That's the kind of irony I can endorse.

Anonymous said...

Todd Rokita will run for any office that will help advance his political career. I for one am sick and tired of the career politicians and think that encumbents, republican and democrat should be voted out of office. I have taken a close look at ERIC WATHEN who is also running for the seat and he is going to get my vote in May.