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Advocates urge Indiana lawmakers not to rush redistricting process
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2021 Indiana General Assembly

Advocates urge Indiana lawmakers not to rush redistricting process

Advocates urge Indiana lawmakers not to rush redistricting process

Leigh Morris, of LaPorte, a member of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, urges the House Elections Committee on Thursday to pause the redistricting process for a few weeks to give lawmakers and Hoosiers more time.

The maps aren't good enough and shouldn't be enacted until they are better.

Ride along with Officer Jimmy Weller as he patrols the region's border of Lake Michigan as part of the Lake County Sheriff's Marine Unit. Video by Connor Burge. 

That, in a nutshell, was the message repeated over and over Thursday to members of the Indiana House Elections Committee by individuals and organizations critical of the Republican-controlled redrawing of congressional and state legislative district boundaries.

Nearly all focused their complaints on the redistricting process, especially the fact only two public hearings will be held on the maps prior to lawmakers voting on the plans and that both hearings occurred within 48 hours of the partial public release of the maps.

"Please reconsider the rushed timeline," pleaded Julia Vaughn, Common Cause Indiana policy director. "Take your maps around the state for public review."

The House Elections Committee held nine public hearings in August seeking input on the principles that should guide the Legislature as it embarked on the once-a-decade task of reshaping districts following the U.S. Census to ensure each contains a nearly equal number of inhabitants.

The majority Republican caucus of the Indiana House of Representatives has released its draft of new Congressional districts. T

The actual drawing of the maps, however, was completed in private by the Republican leaders of the Indiana House and Senate, and the preliminary U.S. House and Indiana House maps already released, and the Indiana Senate map coming next week, are unlikely to be changed prior to enactment.

State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, chairman of the House Elections Committee, confirmed Thursday his committee is set to approve the redistricting plan in House Bill 1581 on Monday, the proposed Senate map will be added to the legislation on the House floor Wednesday, and the measure will be set for a full House vote Sept. 23.

The plan then will advance to the Senate for a final vote Oct. 1. But Wesco explained the idea is for the House not to have to return, which means the Senate must adopt the maps approved by the House without changes to advance them to the governor for final approval.

Leigh Morris, of LaPorte, a member of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, said that schedule does not align with the goals of a transparent redistricting process that results in maps created in good faith to promote competitive elections.

He and several others urged the committee to pause a few weeks to also consider the commission's citizen-drawn maps that encourage voter participation by prioritizing an improved balance of power between Indiana's political parties, as well as to give Hoosiers more time to fully understand how the state's legislative districts are changing.

Rima Shahid, Women4Change executive director, said Hoosiers especially deserve to know the maps they're getting are as gerrymandered in favor of Republicans as the maps used over the past 10 years, according to an analysis by Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington University.

Specifically, Warshaw said his study shows even though Republicans typically only receive 56% of the vote in statewide elections, the maps make it possible for the GOP to control seven of the state's nine congressional districts and nearly 70% of Indiana House seats through 2032.

Ride along with Officer Jimmy Weller as he patrols the region's border of Lake Michigan as part of the Lake County Sheriff's Marine Unit. Video by Connor Burge. 

"Partisan gerrymandering degrades our democracy," Warshaw said. "As Americans, we should aspire to legislative plans that give everyone the same political voice. In my view, Indiana's proposed plans fail this test."

Map defenders point out six Indiana House seats currently controlled by Republicans, primarily in suburban Indianapolis, will have no incumbent representative in the 2022 elections, including two new districts likely to be won by Democrats based on the 2020 election results.

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