(INDIANAPOLIS) — The Census Bureau is asking Congress for more time to deliver population data to the states. That could cause headaches for Indiana.
Because of the pandemic, the census says it needs until the end of next July to complete the numbers
used to redraw congressional and legislative districts. Indiana law says those districts have to be drawn before the legislature adjourns at the end of April.
If legislators miss the deadline, state law calls for a panel of five legislators to draw the maps instead. Barring a major upset in November’s elections for governor or General Assembly, Republicans are already set to control the redistricting process, but missing the deadline would make that control absolute, with a panel comprised of Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville), House Elections Chairman Tim Wesco (R-Osceola), Senate Elections Chairman Greg Walker (R-Columbus), and an appointee of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
While the law rules out redistricting in a special session, legislators could change that with a new law. Julia Vaughn with Common Cause says that would actually be better. Redistricting reform activists have fought unsuccessfully for years for an independent redistricting commission, but Vaughn says if legislators are going to keep control of the process, it should be done in a special session, with no other issues to divert attention from how the maps are being drawn.
Vaughn says legislative leaders need to start planning now, and let the public know how they plan to
address the remap. She says she’s disappointed it wasn’t included in the list of topics for this summer’s study committees.
Spokesmen for Huston and Bray say they’re keeping a close eye on the census request for an extension, but say it’s too early to speculate on how Indiana might be affected.