The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 21, 2021 1:00 am

House redraw proposal advances

Republican plan quickly moves to vote this week

TOM DAVIES | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Republicans turned aside objections from Democrats as they moved ahead Monday toward speedy approval of proposed new Indiana election district maps that will be used for the next 10 years.

The Indiana House elections committee voted 9-4 along party lines to endorse the Republican-drawn redistricting plan for the state's nine congressional districts and 100 state House seats based on population shifts from the 2020 census.

The proposed maps were released last week, with Democrats and voting-rights activists arguing that they had little time to study the redistricting plan before the elections committee wrapped up its public hearings about 48 hours later.

Republican leaders said they focused their map drawing on factors such as not splitting up cities and counties, and said the new maps reflect the state's political leanings.

Political analysts have found the redistricting plan would give Republicans a big advantage in seven of Indiana's nine congressional districts and likely give them 69 of the 100 Indiana House seats even with a typical 56% Republican share of the statewide vote.

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington said the Republican maps unfairly “water down” the influence of Democratic voters to protect the GOP's power. Pierce objected to changes shifting the northern tier of Democratic-leaning Marion County from the 5th District that Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz narrowly won last year in order to shore up her reelection prospects.

“That now is back in the safe Republican column,” Pierce said. “So that's less competition and, I think, less democracy there.”

The full Indiana House is set to vote Thursday on approving the new maps, with final votes in the state Senate set for Oct. 1 – making Indiana one of the first states to complete the once-a-decade redistricting process.

Republicans also face criticism that their proposed maps for new state Senate districts aren't being released to the public until today, with the House Republicans planning to add that plan to the redistrict bill on Wednesday without committee review. The Senate elections committee is to hold a public hearing on the redistricting plans on Sept. 27, followed by a vote Sept. 28.

The state Senate has a 39-11 Republican supermajority, which with the 71-29 GOP House control, allows Republicans in both chambers to approve proposals without any Democrats being present.

Republican leaders maintain the speedy redistricting action is needed so county officials have time to prepare for next year's elections, because the candidate filing period starts Jan. 5.

The redistricting debate would have typically occurred earlier this year, before the regular legislative session ended in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the release of census data.

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