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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Redistricting: House committee approves maps

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With Democrats offering criticism but no specific alternatives, the Republican-controlled House Elections and Apportionment Committee on Monday morning quickly approved the GOP majority’s redrawn congressional and legislative maps, sending the enabling legislation to the full House where debate is expected to begin on Wednesday.

In brief remarks before introducing the legislation, committee chairman Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, praised the plan as complying with all federal and state legal requirements while reflecting on public input including testimony before the committee as recently as last week.

Wesco then offered and the committee accepted an amendment to the bill to slightly adjust the redrawing of two House districts in northeastern Indiana, a change resulting from testimony noting that the original legislation would have split the Canterbury Green apartment complex in northeastern Fort Wayne between the two districts — an example, Wesco said, of Republicans’ commitment to keeping “communities of interest” intact.

None of the eight other Republicans on the committee spoke during the 20-minute committee meeting except to vote yes on its approval. Each of the four Democrats offered brief criticism of the Republican plan but none attempted to amend the bill before its approval.

Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, asked Wesco to explain the redrawing of the 5th Congressional District, which analysts expect to strengthen the Republican support for first-term incumbent Victoria Spartz.

Citing testimony from one analyst last week, Wesco replied, “He thought certain communities of interest belonged together, Muncie, Kokomo, Anderson. I believe we considered that.”

Asked by Errington if he was concerned that the redrawn congressional district might be less competitive, Wesco pointed to reports that quoted a Democratic county chairman in the district as saying his party could still win the district.

In a 9-4 vote split along party lines, the committee approved the redistricting bill, sending it to the House, which is expected to convene briefly later in the day to accept the legislation, setting the stage for floor debate and possible attempts to amend the bill on Wednesday.

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