Blog: Change starts with understanding how our state and local governments work

What does a city councilperson do compared to a state legislator? How many different legislative districts do you live in? Why do you have to select multiple candidates for one race, but only one for most of the others?

Hello! My name is Brandon Blumenherst, and I am a senior Political Science and Communication student at Purdue University Fort Wayne. I also serve as the Vice Chair of the Allen County Democratic Party. As such, I hope to answer these questions and many others asked in an online presentation we’re hosting on Zoom and Facebook on Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

While this event is being hosted by the local county party, it is open to everyone, regardless of your party affiliation. I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from learning more about who does what in state and local government because these governments affect us all on a daily basis.

While the federal government certainly affects everyone, the effects of state and local politics are even more visible in our communities. Our state and local representatives are also more accessible due to the smaller district sizes. This allows them to be more responsive to their constituents.

Recent protests in our city—and around our world—have prompted many questions surrounding our understanding of government, too. The Allen County Democratic Party saw this as an opportunity to explain the different roles of elected officials and how they work. We understand that government can be complicated and overwhelming, so educating the public is a large part of what we do, and we felt that this information would be relevant now, perhaps more than ever.

While the main goal of this event is to educate people about our state and local government structures, we will also discuss the functions of political parties. For instance, political parties are required to elect a replacement for an official who vacates office for any reason. In that instance, precinct committee people of the former elected official’s party meet at a caucus to elect a replacement. Many people do not know what political parties do for candidates, so I will also give a brief overview of what they do and do not do.

I will also be discussing the dynamics of our state government and the effects of the partisan supermajority. The Republican supermajority plays a large role in how our state government decides to conduct business. In essence, the Republicans in the General Assembly could run our state government, completely unchecked, if no Democrats showed up for session. But only one seat is retaining this supermajority.

In other words, 2020 is an opportunity for Indiana to break its supermajority and to restore some semblance of balance in our state government. This election year also has implications for the next decade because legislative districts will be redrawn after the census results are published. Currently, the supermajority can redraw the legislative districts and approve the new maps with essentially no input from Democrats.

For contextual purposes, between 2008 and 2012, there was a 21-seat swing from Democrats holding the majority (52-48) to Republicans garnering a supermajority (69-31) in Indiana’s House of Representatives. While it was a culmination of factors that led to this divide, the intentional gerrymandering of legislative districts drawn to favor Republicans exacerbated this gap. Many elected officials, candidates, and political organizations are now advocating for an independent commission to redraw districts, rather than the party in power, so that more fair, competitive districts are created. These competitive districts would give Hoosiers a chance to truly choose their representative rather than having a stacked partisan deck determining who it is.

In a presidential election year, people are inundated with advertisements and news coverage over the last debate, the newest scandal, or the most recent polling data. While the presidential election, and all federal elections, are incredibly important, state and local races can shape the immediate future of our communities.

I encourage you to join us at this online event to better understand how state and local government works, so you can see where change is needed and learn how to make that change happen.

The Structure of Government in Indiana
Wednesday, July 1
7-8:30 p.m. on Zoom
Learn more and register at the event page on Facebook.

Read more articles by Brandon Blumenherst.

Brandon Blumenherst is a student at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Brandon graduated from Homestead High School in 2017. He was awarded the prestigious Chapman Scholarship at Purdue University Fort Wayne where he is pursuing two majors in Political Science and Communication and two minors in Public Relations and Media Production.
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