The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 1:00 am

Public gives criticism of redistricting

GOP legislator defends mapping

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Senators heard public testimony Monday on proposed redistricting maps from Hoosiers favoring competitive districts over compact districts.

But few – if any – changes are expected when the Senate Elections Committee returns this morning to vote on the bill. A final vote by the full chamber could come Friday.

“Competitiveness is synonymous with fairness, and I really do think that's a Hoosier requirement,” said Marilyn Moran-Townsend, a Republican businesswoman from Fort Wayne.

She and countless others criticized how the Senate Republican proposal for the 50 Senate districts carved up the city of Fort Wayne. The redistricting plan splits Fort Wayne, which has had Democratic mayors since 2000, among four Republican-held Senate districts – three of which extend outside Allen County to take in substantial rural areas.

Fort Wayne resident Jorge Fernandez said it was done intentionally to dilute urban voices – especially minorities who tend to vote Democratic – and called it a textbook example of cracking.

“Is this what you want your legacy to be? A discriminatory Senate map?” he asked. “It's clear you can do better.”

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, defended the maps, noting Indiana is overwhelmingly Republican and it would be difficult to draw competitive districts without gerrymandering. Instead, the Senate Republican caucus focused on compactness and communities of interest.

About Fort Wayne specifically, Koch said the East Allen County Schools boundaries and a south Fort Wayne minority community have been unified under the proposed map.

House Bill 1581 contains all three maps. Under the proposal, Republicans will likely get about 70% of the House seats; 80% of the Senate seats and 78% of the congressional seats. By comparison, President Donald Trump received 58% of the vote in the last election.

Every 10 years the General Assembly is required to draw new legislative boundaries for the state's congressional, House and Senate seats to reflect the shifting population, based on census data.

Koch said that although the state population grew by 4.7%, the increase wasn't distributed evenly because 75% of the growth came in suburban Indianapolis.

Much of Monday's testimony was about a perceived rush to finish the districts and lack of transparency. Normally, maps would be drawn during a few weeks in April near the end of the legislative session, alongside a budget and hundreds of other bills.

But because of delays blamed on the pandemic, the new census data wasn't delivered until August.

At least one person who testified alluded to a likely lawsuit against the maps.

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