INDIANAPOLIS — I called it “Frankendistrict,” the old 4th Congressional District that existed between 2001 and 2011.

“Frankendistrict” was drawn by Indiana House Democrats, the scraps from the other eight districts stitched to make an ugly ninth that gave the concept of “Gerrymandering” a bad, baaaad name. It straddled western Indiana, stretching from three counties south of Lake Michigan to three counties north of the Ohio River.

It was so demonized that it prompted then Secretary of State Todd Rokita to propose the map drawing concepts into the 2011 process, which were to create districts that were “compact” in size, nestled within county lines, while maintaining “communities of interest.”

The 2011 maps drawn by majority Republicans were guided by these principles, creating some of the most uncompetitive congressional and legislative districts in modern times. For the first time in Hoosier history, not a single congressional incumbent was defeated for reelection over the past decade. Republicans have created an unprecedented era of super majorities in the General Assembly, beginning in 2012.

A study by Dr. Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, found that Republican candidates received 53% of the vote in statewide elections since 2012, but Republicans won 78% of congressional seats and 80% of state Senate seats due to Democratic voters being “packed” into fewer districts.

In releasing the report, Rima Shadid, executive director of Women4Change, observed, “Indiana is one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering in the country. Gerrymandering hurts Indiana. It makes people not believe in our government.”

In 2014, 54 of the 125 candidates for the Indiana House and Senate had no opponents and voter turnout that year was 28%. In 2016, some 35 of 125 legislative races were unopposed and in 2018, it was 37.

Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, the House sponsor of the redistricting bill, point out that Indiana is a Republican state and that the party has been dominating at all levels. “When I first came here, there was barely a Republican south of Highway 40,” Steuerwald said at a House hearing Wednesday. “One of the statistics I found most compelling, there are 273 county commissioners and 255 of them are Republican. That’s telling. All politics is local and that says a lot.”

But over the past decade, the three U.S. Senate races (which are run statewide) were all within a 10% plurality and seats changed parties twice.

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl was not impressed with the redistricting process thus far. “Indiana Republicans have once again manipulated our Hoosier democracy in this year’s redistricting period,” Schmuhl said. “Over the summer, they held shadow hearings that felt more like a comment box, promised a process that would be ‘fair’ and ‘transparent’, and when it mattered most, manipulated the system once again to favor themselves over Hoosier voters. The Republicans’ new Indiana House and congressional maps keep in place a broken system where self-serving politicians benefit at the expense of Indiana families.”

So the 39 Senate and 71 House super majority Republicans are now poised to pass the maps for the next decade within the next two weeks.

“We wanted to have maps that honored our goals and what we were trying to accomplish,” House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said Wedneday at a House hearing. “We let the numbers drive us. Frankly where the population numbers grew … it really kind of drew itself.”

Steuerwald added, “We pulled together all the data along with public input to draw fair maps that account for shifts in population over the years. We look forward to obtaining additional public input and fulfilling our constitutional duties in the coming weeks.”

What’s actually occurring is that the uncompetitive 2011 maps are being used as the template for new maps, and Democrats, who lack the numbers even to deny Republicans a quorum, are just out of luck.

“Now you’re seeing the gerrymandering steamroller move,” Rep. Pierce said at a House hearing on Thursday. “You’ll see the majority seal in their dominance for the next decade.”

The preliminary congressional maps appear to have shored up the 5th CD for freshman Republican Victoria Spartz, who defeated Democrat Christina Hale by four percentage points in 2020. By moving the Democratic parts of Indianapolis out of the district while moving Kokomo, Anderson and Muncie in, Indiana’s most competitive district will become less so.

IUPUI economics student and Democratic operative Nick Roberts examined how the Biden/Trump presidential race breaks down in the old and new districts. The 1st CD in The Region becomes slightly less Democratic, the 7th CD in Indianapolis becomes 7% more Democratic, and in the proposed 5th CD, Donald Trump goes from 50% with the old maps to 57% under the new ones.

At the House hearings this week, many testified in favor of maps drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. They urged legislators to slow down. Leigh Morris, the former Republican mayor of LaPorte, and Sonia Leerkamp, a former Republican Hamilton County prosecutor, both urged legislators to consider the independent citizen maps that will be released soon.

General Assembly Republicans have the power to do what they want. Their new maps appear to be a fait accompli, unless that pesky concept of public opinion trumps the spoils to the victors and enters the process in a persuasive way.

Brian A. Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you