INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For all the turmoil that's hit the Indiana Legislature
this year, the most unavoidably political action it faces is just about to
Republicans have begun work to redraw the political maps for the state's 150
legislative and nine congressional districts, a task done every decade based
on new U.S. Census figures. And what those maps look like may depend, as one
Democratic lawmaker says, on how “mean” the GOP wants to be.
Republicans believed they were thwarted for much of the past decade by
Democrat-drawn House maps — and Democrats are braced for the worst in return
now that the GOP has solid majorities in the House and Senate.
Those overseeing the redistricting process have been tight-lipped on any
details about the new computer-generated maps, not even specifying when the
public will have its first look at the proposed districts.
House Speaker Brian Bosma says he expects a map for that chamber to be ready
by the second week of April, while Senate Elections Committee Chairwoman Sue
Landske, R-Cedar Lake, said she hoped a Senate plan would be available April
Even that would leave just three weeks before the scheduled end of the
legislative session for public hearings and final votes.
Republican legislative leaders and GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels, to whom the maps
will go for his approval or veto, have repeatedly said that they intend to
draw districts that are compact and respect county, city and town boundaries
while complying with federal laws such as those regarding minority voting
“We’re trying to draw fair districts for the people in the state of
Indiana,” said Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman of Lafayette, an elections
But Republicans also are quick to find faults with the Indiana House and
congressional maps that Democrats drew 10 years ago when they controlled the
House and the governor's office.
They point to machinations to stuff as many GOP-leaning areas as possible
into the 4th congressional district — now held by Republican Rep. Todd
Rokita — that stretches from north of Lafayette through the western and
southern suburbs of Indianapolis to Bedford.
They also are critical of the 2nd district now held by a likely target —
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly — because it stretches from the South Bend area
to take in a small sliver that includes the city of Kokomo to make it more
favorable for Democrats.
Democrats hit a high-water mark by holding five of the state’s nine
congressional seats after the 2006 and 2008 elections. But Republicans won
back two of those seats in last year’s elections, and GOP candidate Jackie
Walorski has already announced another bid for the seat she narrowly lost to
Donnelly has said he would consider a run for Senate if his district is
State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he expected the direction on
the new congressional district will come from national Republicans. “I
imagine they have ill intent toward the Democratic members of Indiana’s
House delegation,” Pelath said. “It is just a matter of how mean they want
Population shifts alone might make the new political districts more friendly
Maps prepared by Indiana University’s Indiana Business Research Center show
that most districts in urban and rural areas now have too few residents,
while many suburban districts now held by Republicans have seen large
For instance, the district held by GOP Rep. Kathy Richardson of Noblesville
has grown 95 percent since 2000, while the district of Democratic Rep.
Vernon Smith of Gary has lost about 19 percent of its residents.
Conflicts over redistricting have prompted legislative walkouts in the past
— although not as dramatic as the five-week boycott to Illinois by most
House Democrats over education- and labor-related bills that ended on
It took a heated special session in 1991 for lawmakers to settle on the new
maps. In 2001, outnumbered Republicans — led by now-Speaker Bosma — holed up
for two days, refusing to take the floor in protest of the new
Bosma said he intended to make sure that redistricting was finished by the
Legislature's April 29 deadline and that national party groups weren’t
providing the district plans.
The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, backed by the League of Women
Voters, AARP and other groups, has urged the Legislature to put together
districts that emphasize competition and fairness, not incumbent protection
and partisan advantage.
Jeff McDaniel, a government teacher at Rushville High School, told House and
Senate election committee members at a public hearing that gerrymandered
districts on all levels frustrate voters.
“That’s not the republic that our founders envisioned,” said McDaniel, who
twice was a Democratic candidate for state Senate.
Pelath, who is assistant minority leader in the House, said he wasn't
optimistic that Republicans would keep their political knives sheathed and
draw fair, nonpartisan districts.
“If they’re able to abide by those principles and not have political
considerations win the day, it will be a pleasant surprise,” he said.