The Indiana General Assembly announced the proposed U.S. House of Representatives and Indiana State House of Representatives districts Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, the new district lines are expected to benefit the Indiana GOP.
Indiana Republicans, who have a supermajority in the Statehouse, completely controlled the redistricting process. The new maps could determine election results for the next decade and should not be in the hands of one party.
Where district lines are drawn will decide how accurately Hoosiers are represented in the state and federal government. With the proposed maps, Republicans would likely win 69 out of 100 Indiana House seats, despite typically receiving 56% of the vote, according to voting rights group Women4Change.
State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said to the Times of Northwestern Indiana that he as well as state House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and state Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, chairman of the House Elections Committee, were primarily responsible for drawing the new maps.
The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency reformatted census data for the representatives and the House Republican Campaign Committee consulted on the proposed maps. Indiana House Republicans also hired national GOP redistricting attorney Jason Torchinsky for legal advice. Torchinsky and his firm have defended GOP-drawn maps from around the country and opposed independent redistricting commissions in court, according to an NPR article.
"We wanted to have maps that honored the goals and what we were trying to accomplish," Huston told WKLY News. "People are going to think what they want to think."
Maybe some Hoosiers wouldn’t think redistricting was unfair if bipartisan or independent commissions drew the maps, or if Republican representatives were more transparent about the process. It’s not a big leap to imagine a partisan process would have a partisan outcome.
“I think that while geography or other factors could explain part of these biases, these are so extreme that really nothing but politically intentional gerrymandering could really explain the extent of the bias in these maps,” Christopher Warshaw, George Washington University Associate Professor of Political Science, said to the Associated Press.
Warshaw said in the article the new maps consolidate Democratic areas into a handful of districts, making the remaining districts much less competitive.
The finalized U.S. and Statehouse maps were released Tuesday, and two opportunities for public feedback were scheduled during the following two days.
The need for a quick turnaround is understandable because waiting for census data has delayed the redistricting process. However, having public comments the day after the maps were released did not give Hoosiers a reasonable amount of time to analyze the maps and prepare testimonials. Even waiting just a few more days would have helped.
Transparency and public involvement has not been a priority for redistricting. Can skeptics be blamed for assuming the Indiana GOP isn’t handling the process fairly?
All Hoosiers deserve to be represented equitably, and we should have districts and a redistricting process reflecting that value.
You can still share your testimony by emailing the chair of the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment or contacting your representative.
The initial maps for the new senate districts are expected to be released Sept. 21. There will be a public meeting of the Senate Committee on elections Sept. 27.
Allyson McBride (she/her) is a senior studying English and political science. She is the vice president for the College Democrats at IU and a nonfiction editor for “An Inkslinger's Observance”.