INDIANAPOLIS | Republicans have nearly free reign to redistrict Indiana to their advantage now that the GOP has control of both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office.
But House Speaker-designate Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Gov. Mitch Daniels said last week they intend to draw maps with logical district lines and not just create dozens of safe Republican seats.
"Indiana must have a fair redistricting based on geographic and community-of-interest lines, not politics," Daniels said. "I will only sign one that meets that test."
Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, the General Assembly draws new legislative and congressional district lines that reflect shifts in population within the state. The only requirements for drawing districts are that all parts of a district must be contiguous, and each district must have nearly the same population.
In 2001, Democrats drew the legislative maps, creating oddly shaped districts that in some parts of Northwest Indiana cut across half a dozen towns in Lake and Porter counties.
Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Munster native, wanted to compel lawmakers to draw district lines that don't cross town or county boundaries, don't consider the partisan makeup of a district and do protect "communities of interest," that is, similar groups of people whose population extends beyond municipal boundaries.
State lawmakers did not approve Rokita's proposals, leaving contiguity and equal population as the only requirements of an Indiana legislative district. But Bosma said many of Rokita's ideas will shape the new maps informally.
"They won't look like the ridiculous maps we have now," Bosma said.
State Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, the House Democratic leader, said he was skeptical of Bosma and Daniels' promises.
"I want to believe. It's not happened before. But I want to believe," Bauer said.
The maps drawn by the General Assembly next year will remain in effect through the 2020 elections.