(INDIANAPOLIS) – The House is set for a final vote on new legislative and congressional maps Thursday.
The redistricting plan cleared a final procedural hurdle on Wednesday, with Republicans inserting the proposed new Senate districts announced this week, and rejecting a Democratic alternative to the new Indiana House map, drawn by a finalist in a citizens’ redistricting contest. Bloomington Representative Matt Pierce (D) argues that map has two big advantages: it’s drawn by a regular citizen instead of by legislators, and it’s more competitive.
Pierce estimates Republicans’ map leans 69-31 in their favor. That would be a two-seat gain for Democrats, but would still preserve the Republican supermajority. Republicans would still be favorites on the alternative map, but in 59 seats, not 69. And while Pierce says 73 seats would be lopsided in favor of one party or the other, he calculates that’s still nine fewer than the Republican map.
Pierce acknowledges the alternative map features bizarre-shaped districts reminiscent of the lizard-like claws that gave gerrymandering its name. But he argues compactness and so-called “communities of interest” are less important than districts which are more competitive. He says the current map and the proposed new one deny Democratic voters a meaningful voice in legislation, and leave legislators unaccountable to any voters but the most extreme partisans.
Avon Republican Greg Steuerwald, who led the drawing of the maps, says Democrats failed to achieve the fundamental goal of redistricting: to equalize the population of different districts. He says Democrats’ districts vary by nearly 3,000 people, while those on the Republican map differ by fewer than 400.
Steuerwald says case law allows more variation in state maps than the congressional map, but says differences that large mean some people’s votes count for less than others.
Democrats also object to voting on the Senate map without any public hearing. Pierce calls the Senate map “the world champion of gerrymanders,” and says the House should at least wait until after the Senate takes public testimony on Monday.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says the House and Senate have traditionally given each other the freedom to draw their own chamber’s maps without interference from the other.
Republicans rejected the Democratic alternative map on a party-line vote, and added the Senate map on a nearly identical tally, with Indianapolis Republican John Jacob joining Democrats in voting no.
Jacob also attempted to add an amendment of his own, banning any business or employer from requiring the coronavirus vaccine. That amendment was quickly ruled out of order for having nothing to do with redistricting.
After the House vote, the maps will still need to be voted on in the Senate — that’s expected next Friday.
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