INDIANAPOLIS – The majority of the state's congressional districts would see modest change and Allen County's House districts would be more consolidated under proposed redistricting maps released by House Republicans on Tuesday.
“This is a fairly significant redrawing of the House district boundaries in Allen County,” said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “For a long time they have adhered to previous districts. You can't say that this time.”
The House Elections Committee will take citizen input today and Thursday on the new boundaries.
“These proposed maps are the culmination of a monthslong effort, which included listening to Hoosiers across the state,” said state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, author of House Bill 1581. “We pulled together all the data along with public input to draw fair maps that account for shifts in population over the years. We look forward to obtaining additional public input and fulfilling our constitutional duties in the coming weeks.”
The proposed Senate map will be unveiled next Tuesday.
Democrats had little to say initially as they processed the maps.
“Indiana House Democrats continue to analyze the House Republicans' redistricting plan,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne. “While we don't know everything about these newly drawn districts, we do know that any map drawn with the assistance of high-priced D.C. consultants, using advanced political and consumer data points, will benefit the Indiana GOP – not Hoosier voters.”
The Indiana House hired a consultant to aid in the process.
Republicans – who have a supermajority in both the House and Senate – control the process. Despite requests, they declined to release information on how many districts have multiple incumbents or how many are open, competitive seats.
The only details provided were:
• The House map increases the number of counties that are wholly contained within one House district from 26 to 32. There are 22 fewer township splits where a single township is represented by multiple House districts. The draft House map includes a deviation of less than 1% from the ideal population of 67,855 for each district.
• The proposed Congressional map keeps 84 of Indiana's 92 counties whole and includes a near equal deviation, two or fewer persons, from the ideal population of 753,948.
In northeast Indiana, the 3rd Congressional District currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, remains largely the same. If passed, it would shed a bit of Kosciusko County and instead move south into Randolph County.
Elsewhere, the 1st and 7th congressional districts – both held by Democrats – remain solidly blue. The only major change was to make the 5th District – held by GOP U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz – more Republican by taking Marion County out of it.
The 100 House districts would be shuffled statewide to deal with the shifting population from rural areas into urban centers.
Under the current map, nine districts reached into Allen County. Under the proposed map, that is down to six districts.
Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, would remain in House District 81. He appreciated that Allen County is less fractured.
“I think it's good to have people who represent Allen County live in Allen County and we have more of that,” he said. Under the current map a number of districts reached in to grab small parts of Allen but had legislators who lived outside.
Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine also lauded the move to make Allen County districts more compact. Three members would no longer represent the county – Reps. Matt Lehman, R-Berne; Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; and Dan Leonard, R-Huntington.
“I'm sorry to lose those guys,” Shine said. “But this is to me a great effort by the GOP to keep representatives living and serving Allen County only.”
GiaQuinta remains in House District 80. But a new House District 82 is open and leans blue, which could be a pickup for Democrats. The last time two Democrats represented Allen County in the Indiana House was 2012.
Shine expects several Republicans to be interested in that district and noted the GOP has always been competitive even in more Democratic-leaning districts.
“Strong leadership can prevail over partisan politics,” he said.
Two northeast Indiana incumbents would be in the same district – House District 22. Both GOP Reps. Curt Nisly and Craig Snow live in the new boundaries – leading to a possible primary fight.
Nisly made clear it isn't “my district” and said he plans to run again regardless if there are others in the primary.
“It's up to the people to elect their representative. Whether it is two of us or 10 of us I will work hard,” he said.
He declined to comment if the move was done on purpose by GOP leadership. Nisly doesn't caucus with his fellow Republicans and often butts head with those in charge.