INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Election maps proposed by Indiana Republicans for the
state’s congressional and legislative seats have fewer of the sprawling
districts that Democrats put in place a decade ago.
The new maps are on track to win final legislative approval in the coming
week. But Democrats dispute claims by Republicans that the proposed
districts are more politically balanced, and leaders of a redistricting
watchdog group say voters should have more time to weigh in on them.
Republicans who now fully control the Legislature and the redistricting
process say they’ve followed their commitment to draw new districts that are
compact and avoid splitting up cities and counties.
Democrats argue that Republicans are disingenuous in saying they don’t know
how slanted the maps are in the GOP’s favor.
Democrats point to places like Bloomington and surrounding Monroe County,
which now has two solidly Democratic Indiana House seats. The proposed map
would leave the county with one district taking in most of Bloomington,
while the rest of the county would be divided among four surrounding
“Despite whatever rhetoric everyone might put out there, these maps are
political,” said Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington. “They’ve been
political every decade and this is no different.”
Control of the 100-member Indiana House has typically been decided by five
or fewer seats since the mid-1980s until last November’s election gave
Republicans a 60-40 majority. Democrats say 62 of the proposed districts
would be solidly Republican and leave 14 closely contested districts — down
from the current 24.
Republican legislative leaders counter that they didn’t use political
information on drawing the new maps — as required based on the 2010 census —
and haven’t released any analysis to dispute the Democrats.
Leaders of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission say they’re
frustrated there hasn’t been enough information released to the public to
show how heavily packed individual districts are in favor of a particular
“They said they’d have transparency so everybody could see what was going
on, and it is still being done in back rooms,” said former Republican
legislator Bill Ruppel, co-chairman of the commission, which was formed by
state chapters of the League of Women Voters, AARP and the political
watchdog group Common Cause/Indiana.
The Republican-proposed districts for Indiana — nine congressional, 50 state
Senate and 100 state House seats — aren’t available by online mapping
programs or address searches so that a voter could easily determine which
ones will be theirs. For instance, the only public way for someone to know
for sure their new state House district would be to know their precinct
number and search the 64-page listing on the House website, or to go through
the bill listing for the Senate and congressional districts.
“Certainly in Indianapolis and the other urban areas there isn’t any way to
look at those maps and get a good sense at all what the districts are like,”
said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause/Indiana.
Ruppel said Republicans did well, however, at putting together more compact
districts and splitting up fewer cities and counties. But he and other
citizen commission leaders say that since state law only requires the
congressional districts — not the legislative districts — be approved before
the Legislature’s April 29 adjournment deadline, more public hearings should
be held around the state and those districts voted on in the fall.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said the proposed districts weren’t
engineered for a political outcome and that the greatest population growth
has been in traditional Republican suburban areas.
Bosma said the Democrat-drawn maps in place for the 10 years were
“extraordinarily gerrymandered” and that Republicans had unprecedented
openness in redistricting with committee hearings around the state before
the districts were drawn.
“They had no public hearings with no maps in the past,” Bosma said. “We’ve
had nine public hearings and we’ve incorporated public testimony into the
maps. They’re on every website in the state that I can find. People can look
Democrats also are criticizing what they call the unfair dilution of black
and Hispanic voting strength for state Senate districts in Indianapolis and
Fort Wayne by dividing those cities up with districts that reach into
suburban areas for Republican voters.
"When you see communities divided up like that they usually try to dilute
one party or the other,” said Pierce, the Democratic legislator from
Bloomington. “The pattern appears to be there in both the House and the
Senate Elections Committee Chairwoman Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, said Fort
Wayne doesn’t qualify for a minority population district and that the
Indianapolis districts have been carefully drawn to conform with federal
voting rights laws.
“We always have
reached out into the collar counties ... just because of the numbers and
preserving the minority districts,” Landske said. “We did not want to dilute
the minority vote. There is more representation in the Senate than there
would be otherwise."