The Journal Gazette
Saturday, October 02, 2021 1:00 am

Legislators OK district maps; on to Holcomb

Democrats denounce GOP, 'political gain'

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The district boundaries that will govern state and federal legislative districts the next 10 years are headed to the governor after the Senate and House gave final approval Friday.

The Senate voted 36-12 – with 11 Democrats and one Republican opposing the measure. The House voted 64-25, with three Republicans and 22 Democrats against.

“This partisan process comes to an unfortunate yet predictable end as Republicans unilaterally send some of the most gerrymandered maps to the governor's desk,” said Fort Wayne Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. “Throughout the redistricting process, countless Hoosiers voiced the ideal that voters should choose their representation, not the other way around, ... unfortunately, Republicans put political gain before democracy.”

Lawmakers are required to draw new district lines every 10 years following the updated U.S. census to equalize population in the districts. Indiana saw growth in urban areas while rural communities declined. Usually the bill would be finished in April but the federal government did not deliver the data until August. 

“It's not too late to still do the right thing,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

He acknowledged the majority of voters are Republicans but asked the GOP to give up its supermajority. Using recent election results, Pierce said Republicans should have about 56 seats in the Indiana House instead of 71. Analyses of the new map indicate the breakdown staying roughly the same. 

Democrats in both the House and Senate said the Senate map especially dilutes and silences minority voters by splitting them into so many districts that they can't coalesce to elect a Democrat.

“These maps are about preservation of power – not power to the people,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said this is called cracking minority votes and was done in Fort Wayne and Evansville in the Senate.

But the GOP said splitting Fort Wayne into four Senate districts adds representation for the city, even if the district extends into rural areas and the senator lives outside the county.

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said the maps meet established legal requirements – such as contiguity. He added that his caucus's aspirational goals were compactness and communities of interest.

“This was a careful, collaborative effort that will serve Indiana well in the next decade,” he said.

The issue of splitting Black voters could be the basis of a lawsuit, as several advocates said during public testimony.

“We hope not but we certainly kind of did our work, keeping a close eye on things to make sure that they were legal in anticipation of that possibility,” GOP Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said.

Northeast Indiana's GOP legislators voted for the maps, and Democrats voted against.

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