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Saturday, October 16, 2021

House passes redistricting legislation; Senate up next

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The Indiana House of Representatives voted along party lines to approve a redistricting bill that will determine which district voters live in for the next decade. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

The bill includes new maps for the state House and Senate, as well as Indiana’s nine congressional districts. The legislature would normally draw new maps during its regular session but had to do it during a special session this year because census data was delayed by the pandemic.

The bill passed 67-31. Two members were excused.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, the primary author of the legislation, said his main goals for maps were transparency, low population deviation and maintaining communities of interest.

Democrats put up their final stand against the maps before the vote Sept. 23, arguing they are gerrymandered to maintain Republicans’ supermajority, which allowed party leaders to draw maps without Democrats.

“Power should have a purpose beyond the exercise of power,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, the most animated speaker.

DeLaney was especially upset with the congressional map, which he said rewards some Republicans who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election with a safe path to Congress.

The most commonly cited district when Democrats talk about gerrymandering is the 5th District, which Republicans want to shift north. The district currently includes parts of northern Marion County but wouldn’t include any of the county under the new map, making it a safter seat for Republicans.

Christopher Warshaw, a political science professor at George Washington University, said the proposed congressional map represents “one of the most extreme gerrymanders in history” — in large part because of the 5th District.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the House map “shows a little bit of humanity” in some areas but still maintains the status quo. The Senate map, he said, “borderlines on mean-spirited.”

PlanScore, a map analysis software, shows the Senate map has a 12.2% efficiency gap, favoring Republicans in 98% of predicted scenarios. The efficiency gap metric measures the number of votes each party “wastes” in an election.

Republicans added the Senate map to the House bill Sept. 22 — after the House elections committee hosted public hearings and approved the two other maps.

Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, like other Republicans, talked about other hearings hosted around the state before the redistricting process started. Democrats pointed out those hearings happened before there were maps to analyze.

The bill will move to the Senate next. The Senate has a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 27, and a final vote is expected by Oct. 1. Gov. Eric Holcomb will have to sign the bill into law.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or tylerf@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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