Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, far left, introduces the bill containing the Indiana House, Senate and congressional redistricting maps before public testimony Monday in Indianapolis. Staff photo by Whitney Downard, CNHI Statehouse Reporter
Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, far left, introduces the bill containing the Indiana House, Senate and congressional redistricting maps before public testimony Monday in Indianapolis. Staff photo by Whitney Downard, CNHI Statehouse Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — Calls for fair maps and a slower redistricting process continued in the last public hearing Monday, six days after senators unveiled a new district map. No one testified in favor of the Senate map during the public comment period, which ran 2.5 hours.

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, discussed the challenge of drawing new districts in a state whose population grew by 4.7% overall, but 74% of the gain occurred in just five suburban counties around Indianapolis/Marion County. Half of the state’s counties lost population in the last decade.

“The Senate districts that are proposed are all less than a plus/minus 2% deviation from the ideal (135,711 Hoosiers),” Koch said. “Under our proposal, the number of whole counties contained in one Senate district increases from 49 to 65.”

Koch said Republicans prioritized compactness and maintaining communities of interest, as opposed to calls from activists and Democrats for more competitive districts.

Ami Gandhi, a Bloomington resident with the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, specifically analyzed the effect the proposed map would have on populations of color and racial equity. She said the proposed map would break those communities across several districts.

“We have a lot of unanswered questions on black voters or other communities of color in divided or packed districts and (effectively diluting our voting power,” Gandhi said. She added that senators hadn’t assured Hoosiers of color that their voting rights had been protected. “The legislature must redraw its districts to keep communities of color together or they have risked violating the Federal Voting Rights Act.”

Specifically, in Fort Wayne, Gary and Indianapolis, some districts seemed to be drawn to divide voters of color’s interests, according to Gandhi. Several others testified about Fort Wayne being split into four districts, mixing those urban voters with rural voters in the surrounding areas. In particular, southern Fort Wayne has the largest Burmese population in the United States and will be sharing representation with Adams, Blackford, Jay and Wells counties.

“The demographics across Indiana are shifting; I find that impossible to ignore,” Gandhi said. “The state of Indiana must do better to protect the voting rights of people of color.”

Julia Vaughn, the executive director of advocacy group Common Cause Indiana, pointed to these splits in urban areas and the division of West Lafayette and Lafayette into separate districts, despite close ties.

“We would ask you to rethink, in particular, the drawing of Senate districts and really think about how voters in urban communities will be impacted,” Vaughn said. “Those are the parts of our state that are growing, that are vibrant.”

Other testimony noted that Warren Township in Marion County was split into four districts, weakening the Republican mapmakers focus on compactness and maintaining communities of interest.

The Senate Elections Committee will vote on the redistricting bill, which includes the Senate map, House map and congressional map, on Tuesday. The full Senate will then vote on the first, second and third reading of the maps Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Because the House already voted on the Senate map, the House will have to reconvene if the Senate makes any changes this week. The House could come in this Friday.
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