The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 17, 2021 1:00 am

Redistricting biased: Expert

At public hearing, DC prof says new maps favor GOP

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A national redistricting expert on Thursday said Indiana's proposed congressional and House maps unfairly benefit Republicans.

“Nothing but intentional political gerrymandering can explain the bias in these maps,” said Christopher Warshaw, political science professor at George Washington University.

He was hired by Women4Change Indiana to analyze the newly proposed legislative boundaries. He also previously reviewed the current maps and found them among the worst in the nation. He was paid about $10,000 in all.

Warshaw said though 44% of Indiana voters generally vote Democratic, the proposed maps will give Democrats only 22% of the congressional seats (7 of 9), and only 31% of the seats in the state House (31 of 100). One primary criticism was packing Democrats into a small number of districts around Indianapolis to limit competitive races.

He spoke with reporters before a public hearing Thursday on the House Republican maps, which were made public Tuesday. Several dozen Hoosiers testified – mostly against them.

Much of the commentary focused on the maps for the nine congressional seats. Republicans removed Marion County precincts from the 5th District – making it a safer Republican seat.

And Brian Smith of Warsaw noted that Kosciusko is split into two congressional districts – the 2nd and the 3rd. It has been the last 10 years as well.

Tom Hayhurst of Fort Wayne, a former city councilman, lauded the improvement in Allen County. The proposed maps reduce the number of House districts in the county from nine to six, which he said will help with the issue of responsiveness.

Previously several districts reached into Allen County slightly with the representative living elsewhere.

Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana also noted that residents of Canterbury Green apartments are still divided into two House districts.

House Elections Committee Chairman Rep. Tim Wesco said discussions are ongoing on whether there will be any amendments. The committee meets Monday to vote on House Bill 1581.

Then the House comes back Wednesday for second reading. Wesco said the plan is at that point to insert a proposed Senate map into the bill – one that won't have had public testimony. The full House will vote on the bill Thursday.

The Senate Elections Committee would take testimony on the bill – then containing all three maps – on Sept. 27. The goal is not to make changes and have the full Senate vote on final passage Oct. 1. If even one precinct is changed, the House would have to return for another vote. Republicans control both chambers.

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