EDITORIAL: Stop gerrymandering and make voting easier

May 18—Gerrymandered districts. Polls that close early. Photo ID requirements. Early voting and vote-by-mail restrictions.

Yes, Indiana has them all.

Is it any wonder so few Hoosiers vote?

About 20-25% of eligible adults cast ballots in Indiana's May 7 primary. It's pathetic when just two in 10 Hoosiers are exercising their right to vote.

This is a continuing trend. Witness November 2020, when Indiana had the ninth-lowest voter percentage turnout in the presidential election.

If we can't get folks to vote in a presidential election or in a primary with hotly contested races for gubernatorial and congressional nominations, it's a sad day in Indiana.

But don't blame this troubling civic failure on Hoosiers. Blame it on our so-called leaders in the state legislature. They're the ones who've set the rules for voting in Indiana.

Why are we just one of five states where polling sites close at 6 p.m. on Election Day? No state closes polls earlier than Indiana. Twenty-four states don't close until 8 p.m. local time at the earliest.

Just think how many more Hoosiers would vote if they had another hour or two in the evening.

Currently, for many folks whose workday doesn't end until 5 or 6 p.m., making it to the polls before they close is problematic. And getting there early in the morning is difficult, too, with both work and family considerations getting in the way.

Indiana's voter photo ID requirements and relatively restrictive early voting, absentee and vote-by-mail rules pose other obstacles for civic-minded Hoosiers.

But the most blatantly deliberate obstacle to voting in Indiana is gerrymandering, the practice by the party in power of seizing the opportunity to consolidate votes when constitutionally-required redistricting rolls around after the U.S. Census every 10 years.

The Republican Party has held a supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature and has perpetuated its dominance when redrawing districts. Democrats, when holding the majority in the past, have been guilty of this, as well.

If legislators in the majority would do the right thing by Hoosiers, redistricting would be a truly non-partisan effort aimed at creating symmetrically shaped districts, as it is in some other states. Instead, those who hold power in the Legislature consistently choose party over state, creating a patchwork of oddly shaped districts that approximate a Rorschach test.

The objective: to protect their own incumbents while squeezing the other party's out.

Fighting a losing battle in districts drawn to extend Republican power, Democrats offered no candidates for many key positions on May primary ballots across the state. Democratic Party leaders know victory in gerrymandered districts is a pipe dream, so why bother?

As a result, many voters who would choose Democratic candidates don't bother to vote in the primary or General Election.

Obviously, the solution to low voter turnout in Indiana is to change the rules.

Outlaw gerrymandering. Keep the polls open longer on Election Day. Relax overly aggressive requirements for voter registration, photo IDs, and early and absentee voting.

In other words, give Hoosiers fairly drawn districts and fewer hoops to jump through, and they will vote.