The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 13, 2021 1:00 am

Redistricting session in works for September

Lawmakers expect census data in August

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Plans for legislative redistricting are starting to come together – with Indiana lawmakers coming back in mid-to-late September.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Monday it is set to release in-depth demographic statistics from the 2020 census by Aug. 16.

That data will then be used to draw new maps for Indiana's nine congressional districts, 100 House districts and 50 Senate districts.

Right now, Indiana has about 65,000 people in each House district, and that will jump to about 67,500. Senate seats will have double the population at about 135,000 each. Each congressional district will have about 750,500 residents. 

House Speaker Todd Huston told The Journal Gazette that “at this time, many details remain uncertain as we await the data from the U.S. Census. We've told our members to be ready to come back to session during mid-to-late September, and we will confirm a timeline as soon as possible.”

But in a recent meeting among legislative leaders, the date of Sept. 20 was discussed for moving maps through the House. Senate action would then follow the next week.

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, of Fort Wayne, said the dates are still being finalized, including when public testimony will be heard.

“For transparency, the public should be able to see the proposed maps and testify on them,” he said.

There has been talk about statewide hearings in early August, but that could come before maps are drawn by Republicans in charge of both chambers.

In 2011 – the last time the state redistricted – Republicans conducted hearings in eight cities in March but with no maps to consider. Then the usual public hearing on a bill was held at the Statehouse after maps were unveiled in April.

Julia Vaughn, director of Common Cause Indiana, would prefer two sets of public hearings. The first would be premapmaking and focus on criteria and principles, and the second would be after maps are drafted and specific boundaries can be discussed.

Vaughn has long pushed for an independent redistricting commission to draw the maps instead of incumbent legislators, but Republicans blocked the move.

She hopes leaders come out with a timeline soon, noting they had months to come up with a plan for how it would be handled.

“The public shouldn't get information on the most important job the legislature will do all year through the grapevine,” Vaughn said. “We could have already had one set of hearings.”

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