News and Tribune

Clark County

April 11, 2011

Proposed redistricting maps would shift district lines around the state

> SOUTHERN INDIANA —  INDIANAPOLIS — Legislators across Indiana may be spending their next campaign season traveling to parts unknown to them because of big shifts in political districts proposed by Statehouse Republicans.

The proposed new maps for state legislative and federal congressional districts unveiled Monday significantly reconfigure the boundary lines for almost every legislative and congressional district in the state. Moments after their release, Democrats and Republicans were pitching opposing views on the fairness of the maps. But there was concurrence on one thing: The redrawn lines mean many incumbents will be stumping for votes in communities where they’ve never had to campaign before.

Without knowing exactly how specific areas voted, it’s difficult to say what the implications of the redistricting will be, said Joe Wert, Dean of Indiana University Southeast’s School of Social Sciences.

Map drafters are going to say it has nothing to do with gerrymandering a political district to support one party or another, he said.

However, he said, “we also know that goes on all the time — [between] Democrats and Republicans.” A party isn’t going to propose a map that’s going to hurt its own candidates when the next election comes around, he said.

That said, Wert estimates changes would be marginal because none of the lines were moved too drastically. The eastern and western borders of Indiana’s 9th District, which contain both Clark and Floyd county, were cut off — making Clark the eastern most point of the district. The northern boundary was also pushed north to include some southern suburbs of Indianapolis, under the proposal.

“The incumbents are going to have to relearn their districts when they go to campaign in the next election,” he said, noting the way in which they campaign might have to be changed to suit some new areas.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that every legislative and Congressional district be redrawn every 10 years, following the decennial Census, to guarantee an equal number of people reside in each district.

But how those lines are redrawn are often the subject of bitter debate.

Some examples of how the GOP-backed redistricting plan would impact Indiana: The 2nd congressional district, now represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, would be redrawn to exclude some traditional Democrat strongholds, including Kokomo. The 9th congressional district, represented by Republican Todd Young, would be stretched so that it would it run from the southern suburbs of Indianapolis to the Ohio River counties that make up the northern suburbs of Louisville.

“No matter what this district looks like when the process is complete, I look forward to continuing to work toward sustainable economic growth and job creation on behalf of Hoosiers,” Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in a written statement.

The new maps would eliminate a state House seat in a traditionally Democrat area of Indianapolis that has lost population and add a state House seat in Zionsville, an area of booming growth over the decade that is also heavily Republican.

Few lawmakers had seen the GOP-drawn maps until they were unveiled Monday and later posted online.

Among the surprises: 8 of the 100 newly proposed state House districts have no incumbent living there and 10 districts have two incumbents in their borders: Three districts have two current Republican legislators together, three districts have two Democrat incumbents, and four districts have a Republican and a Democrat incumbent within their borders. Rep. Scott Reske, a Democrat from Pendleton, is in the last category. His district now includes a portion of Anderson, but under the proposed maps, it would district shift geographically to the southwest. The new district would include the hometown of Republican Rep. Bob Cherry of Greenfield.

On the state level, Wert said changes will have less of an affect because of size. Particularly in the Indiana Senate, a chamber long controlled by the GOP, there was likely little motivation too make too many changes.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, said partisan politics didn’t enter the remapping process.

Both said that the GOP mapmakers focused on making the new districts compact and focused on keeping “communities of interest” together.

Bosma said Republicans had vowed to produce new maps free of partisan gerrymandering of the past that aims to favor incumbents and the party in power. He acknowledged, though, that new maps may favor Republicans because of the makeup of Indiana voters and the population shifts that have occurred in traditional Democrat and Republican strongholds.

An analysis done by Brian Howey, a longtime observer of Statehouse politics and publisher of The Howey Report political newsletter found that of the 30 House districts that lost population over the last decade, 21 of them are represented now by Democrats. Meanwhile, many of House districts held by Republicans in suburban districts saw significant growth in population.

Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause/Indiana, helped lead an effort to solicit more citizen participation and input into the mapmaking. She saw the GOP-proposed maps for the first time Monday, so hadn’t had much time to study them. She noted that they appeared more compact geographically than some of the meandering districts drawn by Democrats 10 years ago.

“But compactness isn’t the only criteria,” she said. “Again and again what we heard in the public meetings we held across that state was that people wanted two things: compactness and political competition. Voters want the maps to result in more competitive districts, not fewer.”

That debate is still to come. Committee hearings on the maps are slated for Wednesday in the House and the Senate. Any changes and a vote on the maps have to come before the legislature ends the session April 29.

— Staff Writer David A. Mann contributed to this report.

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