INDIANAPOLIS — In an unusual and historic year, lawmakers left the state capitol Thursday without finishing all of their 2021 business, purposefully leaving without filing the “sine die” motion to mark the end of session.

Due to COVID-19 delays, the Census Bureau told states it wouldn’t have finalized population data until the fall, meaning legislators wouldn’t be able to draw new maps in the normal January-to-April time frame. Occurring once a decade, the census counts determine the districts for state and Congressional representatives.

Ending the first part of the 2021 session without achieving redistricting reform was one of the disappointments for Democrats, according to House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D- Fort Wayne).

“House Democrats, and even some House Republicans, have pushed for this over the last 10 years and have not been able to … move on that,” GiaQuinta said. “We tried all kinds of things to move forward with an independent commission, modeled after the Iowa plan, that we thought was fair.”

In March, Democrats introduced an amendment that would model Indiana’s redistricting process after Iowa’s, in which the Indiana Legislative Services Agency would draw maps with guidance from lawmakers — such as maintaining municipality boundaries and explicitly not using political data. The agency would then present those maps before the General Assembly, who could vote to approve them or ask for another set.

“That’s still very disappointing because, as we’ve said before, we just don’t believe that legislators should be drawing their own districts,” GiaQuinta said.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said that even slight changes to Indiana’s district standards weren’t accepted by Republicans.

“We should be making sure not only are the districts contiguous — which is the only standard we have in Indiana — but they should be compact. (We) shouldn’t be separating precincts, should be packing people of common generality in the same area,” Taylor said. “Just simple standards like that; (things) over 38 states already have.”

Republican leaders in charge of the process released few details, including whether constituents will be able to draw their own maps online or what metrics they’ll prioritize.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said that election committees in both chambers would lead the process, conducting meetings and listening tours.

“It clearly won’t be as condensed (as 2011) because we won’t be in the midst of session and we won’t have the deadline date of April 29,” Huston said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, acknowledged that districts may change, especially in rural areas that have lost population in the last 10 years and offset by gains in urban or suburban areas.

“Those districts might look larger in the rural areas because they’re just going to be more sparsely populated,” Bray said.

Taylor saw an opportunity for Democrats with that shift, saying it could hurt Republican chances if the public got engaged with the redistricting process.

“I think it’s going to be difficult with the population shifts for them to maintain the supermajority numbers that they have,” Taylor said.

Republicans maintain supermajorities in both chambers of the statehouse.

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