Courier-Journal: "Gerrymandering Thrives in Indiana
House." August 6, 2004
No more than 20 of Indiana's 100 House races will be competitive this fall, a reality politicians fuel by crafting districts that keep them in power and reduce voter turnout.
The odd patchwork of district boundaries means that many people do not know their representatives who help write state law, fund programs vital to families and spend billions in tax money. The lack of interest, those who have studied the system say, contributes to low voter turnout.
"There's something missing when districts are drawn this way ó community, for want of a better word," said James McDowell, a political science professor at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. "There isn't that sense of belonging."
After the national census every decade, state lawmakers draw new legislative district boundaries to reflect population changes ó and political considerations.
The party in power controls the process, usually drawing the lines to protect incumbent members. That's done by adding or subtracting precincts to adjust the number of voters in a district for or against the controlling party.
In 2001, the Indiana House districts were redrawn by Democrats, who had the majority in the House of Representatives at the time of the 2000 census.
A Republican won the 86th District by a nearly 2-1 margin in the 2000 election. Two years later, after the district boundaries were redrawn to include more Democratic precincts from Indianapolis, a Democrat won the seat. The tactic, which both parties have done when given the chance, produces a large number of "safe" districts.
In the last state legislative races two years ago, Republican House candidates received 758,088 votes across the state ó far more than the 549,723 votes received by Democratic candidates.
Yet while Democrats had 41 percent of the vote, they won 51 percent of the seats, maintaining control of the House.
The Republican-controlled Senate was more balanced. In elections two years ago, GOP candidates got 61 percent of the vote statewide and won 60 percent of the seats. Democrats got 37 percent of the vote and won about 40 percent of the seats (10) up for election.
Another measure of lopsided districts in the House ó those with substantially more voters from one party ó is the collective margin of victory in those races.
In the 2002 House races, the winners, most of them incumbents, won by a margin of 18 percentage points.
Districts that are drawn to include a solid majority of one party or another often take on odd-looking shapes.
Rep. Ed Mahern, an Indianapolis Democrat who was in charge of drawing the districts for his party, said the system was fair and produced the peculiar-looking districts partly because the precincts that make them up are irregularly shaped.
"Fairness is in the eye of the beholder," he said, noting that control of the House came down to only 37 votes in the last election.
Mahern said legislators do a better job of representing the interests of the entire state when their districts include a mix of Hoosiers.
"I think Indiana would be better served if all districts were as diverse as they could be."
Rep. Brian Bosma, the Republican House leader from Indianapolis, said the system leaves voters with fewer choices.
"In 80 to 85 of the House districts, the election is over already because of the way they've been drawn," he said. "In only 15 or 20 districts will voters have a real contest to look at, which is unfortunate because I think it harms voter turnout."
Bosma said the next redistricting in 2011 should be done by a bipartisan or nonpartisan commission to group voters together by common interests.
Democrats are unlikely to support such a plan, however, because it would almost certainly favor Republicans, who have more voters in the state.
Nonpartisan or politically balanced commissions draw district boundaries in Iowa and Illinois, but McDowell said he doubted that could happen in Indiana.
"I don't see the political parties, either one, giving up control of their destiny," he said.
The number of City-County Council districts containing a majority of black voters will drop to two from seven under a redistricting plan devised by the Indiana Supreme Court last month, an Indianapolis Star analysis has found.
The analysis, which took demographic and political data into account, also found that at least one predominantly Republican district will become Democratic -- threatening the GOP's majority on the 29-member council for the first time in more than 30 years.
Both findings could have long-term implications, not only for the political and racial makeup of the council, but also on which issues are considered and, ultimately, which parts of the community receive city services, several experts said.
"It seems to me that the African-American population in Marion County ought to be upset about that," said Republican council President Philip Borst, who represents a predominantly white district in western Perry Township. "Their ability to elect candidates has been diluted."
Marion County Republicans, who found similar results in their own analysis of the Supreme Court's council districts, are considering challenging them in federal court, where they would argue, in part, that the plan would diffuse the city's black vote.
Of the eight black council members, two are at-large members elected by a citywide vote. The six others, along with one white member, come from black-majority districts.
Like most Indianapolis residents, Charles Lacy isn't sure who represents him on the council, isn't clear about which district he lives in and isn't aware that under the new maps, all that he didn't know will change.
Lacy, who is black, has lived for two decades in the mostly black 10th District -- where a majority of voters now will be white. The Eastside district currently is held by Democrat William Douglas, who is black.
"They need to put a person on the council that's going to do the job for this neighborhood," Lacy said. "I suppose it doesn't matter if he's black or white, just as long as he does the job."
Lacy said he doesn't follow the council; but when asked which issues affect his neighborhood, he cited street repairs, snow removal and taxes -- all matters in which the council has a hand.
That's one reason it's important for a legislative body to reflect the demographic makeup of those it represents, said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor and redistricting expert at the University of Louisville.
About 25 percent of Indianapolis' population -- 200,257 people -- identified themselves as African-American on the 2000 census.
"Suburban legislators are going to spend their energy trying to protect their constituents and won't be as concerned if the local branch of a black neighborhood library closes," Clayton said.
The city's two highest-ranking elected Democrats -- Mayor Bart Peterson and council Minority Leader Rozelle Boyd -- said they would move forward with the new map, which many believe will give Democrats control of the council for the first time since 1970, when Uni-Gov was created.
"I would much rather have three African-Americans as part of a council majority than to have seven as part of a council minority," said Boyd, who is black.
Peterson pointed to the two black at-large members of the council -- Lonnell Conley and Ron Gibson -- as examples of black politicians elected by a white majority. He also noted that a Republican challenge filed in March that was based on racial questions was denied by the state's highest court.
Democrats support nine black council candidates and Republicans back at least three in the May 6 primary.
The new district boundaries, which define the areas that each council member will represent, were drawn by the Supreme Court last month after Republicans on the council and Peterson, a Democrat, failed to agree on maps. The council had until March 26 to attempt to draft another version but decided not to do so.
The redistricting process takes place every decade after the U.S. census.
Together, the two parties have spent nearly $700,000 in taxpayer money this year on wrestling through that partisan process and developing competing maps, which eventually were thrown out and replaced by the court's version.
Compared with the old boundaries, the new districts, as required by law, are more compact and have a more even distribution of residents -- ranging from about 33,900 to 35,000 each. But the court-crafted districts, unlike those originally drawn by Democrats and Republicans, don't consider demographics or traditional neighborhood boundaries. Nor were they drawn to protect current council members.
That's why the council's 2nd District -- which once supported former council President Beurt SerVaas, a Republican -- could in its new incarnation become Democratic, if previous voting patterns are any indication.
The thought of having a Democratic mayor and a council controlled by the same party bothers Dennis Campbell, who lives in the 2nd District and believes the city was better off under Republicans.
"If we lose control of the City-County Council," he said, "watch out."
The state Supreme Court is preparing to rule on motions that could delay the May primary in Indianapolis. It's the result of a combined legal and political battle to win control of the city-county council.
The primary is still scheduled for May 6th, but Republicans want the state Supreme Court to reconsider new council districts created just last week. That could cause a delay.
Republicans have been in control of the city-council since the 1960's but now dominate by a single seat. The mayor is already predicting change come November. ìI think there will very likely be a Democratic majority on the city-county council,î said Mayor Bart Peterson.
The election is scheduled to take place using a new map for the 25 district seats. It was drawn by the state Supreme Court. It replaces a Republican map that gave the GOP sixteen safe seats. ìProbably looks like pretty evenly split in terms of Democrats having ten seats, Republican probably have ten seats and then there's gonna be a fight over five of them,î said Ed Treacy, (D-Marion County chairman).
Council Republicans have asked for a new hearing on the Democratic lawsuit that led to the new map. But they hope to maintain control, regardless. ìWe'll have to be there on election night to figure that out, but I'm optimistic we'll give it the best shot we can and we've got a good opportunity to do that,î said John Keeler (R-Marion County chairman).
Democrats are so intent on winning that three-term councilor Frank Short may retire rather than run against another incumbent. ìThere's a lot riding on this. This is, you know, control not only for the next ten years, but probably for a long, long time,î said Frank Short (D-City-County Council).
A half-dozen incumbents have already decided to retire. Frank Short's political future may depend on a Democratic request that the state Supreme Court ease residency requirements for the new districts.
Already the time period for absentee voting has been shortened and, if Republicans don't get their way, there could be an appeal to the federal courts causing further delays.
In the meantime, Democrats are planning to conduct candidate slating Thursday. Republicans will do it Saturday, and itís yet not clear who will be running in which districts.
What local Democrats dub gerrymandering, Republicans call politics. So on March 6, the Indiana Supreme Court will consider who should control electoral redistricting in Indianapolis.
In the process, it may also decide who rules the City-County Council for the next decade.
"Because there's no fundamental rationale for what they're doing, [Republicans] explain it away as, 'To the victor go the spoils,'" said Rozelle Boyd, Democrat Council minority leader, acknowledging the GOP's 15-14 majority. "But they have violated basic principles, procedurally and in substance. We're [seeking] an objective assessment of the whole situation."
Democrats' charges don't seem to rankle Boyd's counterpart, Republican Council President Philip Borst.
"I guess they're going to naturally say that, by the nature of the way things work," Borst said. "We think we had a process that was very fair and equitable."
To reflect local population changes, the 29-member City-County Council redraws its maps every 10 years into 25 single-member districts. Its remaining four seats are elected at-large.
In every previous redistricting during the Unigov era, Republicans enjoyed a solid Council majority and held the Mayor's Office. But Mayor Bart Peterson is a Democrat, and Republican dominance has shrunk to the slimmest majority.
Marion County's population shifts have been substantial over the last decade. Center Township, for example, lost 15,085 residents, or 8.28 percent of its population. Franklin Township, on the other hand, gained 10,622 residents, or 49.5 percent. And Pike Township gained 26,261, a 58-percent increase and the most of any township.
Based on the 2000 Census, Indianapolis' population of 860,454 means the Council's 25 new districts will have an average of 34,418 residents each.
On Oct. 7, the Council passed on a straight party-line vote a revised map. Twelve days later, Peterson vetoed the redistricting ordinance. Rather than attempt to overturn the mayor's veto, which would have required a two-thirds majority, Republicans went to the courts. Marion Superior Court recently upheld the Republicans' map, but the Indiana Supreme Court accepted emergency jurisdiction over the appeal.
"We considered it an extremely positive sign for the [Supreme] Court to agree to look at this," Boyd said. "They held the case close enough to their noses to detect an odor."
District lines were all that preserved the Republican Council majority in the last election, said Marion County Democratic Party Chairman Ed Treacy.
"When you get 6,000 more votes and five fewer seats, I don't think you can say much more than that it's unfair," he said. "This time, we'd win the total council seats by 20,000 votes and be lucky to get the seats we have on their map."
The battle is about more than a simple Council majority. Democrats are also fighting to preserve the power of the mayor's veto, said Scott Chinn, corporation council for the city of Indianapolis.
Republicans who should have recused themselves from the process in lower courts acted on partisan lines, Chinn said. So Democrats believe an independent party should draw the council's new map.
"Let the chips fall where they may. Both sides may love it. Both sides may hate it," he said. "But at least it would have been done impartially."
Fort Wayne, which recently endured a similar redistricting battle, managed to decide it without court intervention, Chinn said. Fort Wayne's Mayor Graham Richard is a Democrat, but Republicans hold a 5-4 majority on the city council.
"Let's take the Fort Wayne example, which is a wonderful example of how the system is supposed to work," Chinn said.
But Republicans say all these arguments come down to sour grapes.
"The minority in a legislative body always complains when they don't get their way, no matter what that is," said Marion County Republican Party Chairman John Keeler. "Those that win elections and control legislative bodies have the right to redistrict."
During his three decades on the Council, Boyd has seen Democrats improve from a mere six members to the brink of majority. Regardless of the outcome of this battle, he said, Republicans can't hold back the tide forever.
That's particularly true since, due to retirements, the next election will likely see five fewer Republican names: Beulah Coughenour, William Dowden, Beurt SerVaas, David Smith and Bill Soards.
"No one deceived themselves or was naive enough to believe there wouldn't be some contention in this redistricting process. It's by nature an adversarial process," Boyd said.
"But the numbers this time make the Democrats more worthy opponents."
Marion County judges voted along party lines to endorse a Republican map that sets new City-County Council districts, prompting accusations of racism and gerrymandering from unhappy Democrats.
The Democrats' lawyer, Bill Groth, is appealing and plans to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to block the order, a move that could delay the May primary.
The majority opinion, endorsed by 16 Republican judges, finds the GOP-sponsored map -- which had been vetoed by Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson -- is proper and protects the rights of minority voters.
Judge Cale Bradford, writing for the majority, noted that the ruling was based on the law and the facts, not politics. The ruling, he said, accepts that no map can please everyone.
"The search for a perfect redistricting plan would be unending, as would the quest for a truly neutral plan," Bradford wrote. "The court must make a decision on the evidence it has regarding what is the best redistricting plan for Marion County."
Calling the majority "hypocritical," Judge Grant Hawkins noted that the ruling means the Republican council members, two of whom called blacks "gorillas and thugs" in August, are being allowed to pack black voters into seven of 25 districts.
"Recently the party of these majorities engaged in some of the most ugly local race-baiting politicking in recent memory," Hawkins wrote.
The Republican majority says the seven predominantly black voting districts protect the rights of minority voters and ensure minority candidates will be elected.
Hawkins, however, noted the GOP's map "guarantees an African American Councilperson will never be a member of the majority political party on the council."
In another dissent, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said the Republican judges are voting to keep Republicans in power.
"The Republican draftsmen of this plan intended to create a redistricting plan that provided it with the best chance of electing at least 15 Republicans to the 25 single-member districts on the council," she wrote.
Four other council members are elected at large.
A dissent endorsed by 13 Democratic judges renews a call to hire a neutral expert to draw the new maps.
"This case was an opportunity for this court to resolve a partisan dispute, advance the public interest and protect taxpayers and voters," Judge David Dreyer wrote for the minority. "Instead, it is ratifying a partisan map."
State law gives the Superior Court judges the power to approve a map because the GOP-controlled council and the mayor failed to draw the new districts by a Nov. 8 deadline.
There are 17 Republicans and 15 Democrats on the Superior Court. Three judges did not vote: Republican Gary Miller and Democrats Becky Pierson-Treacy and David Shaheed.
Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at 1-317-635-7592.
Candidates for the City-County Council still don't know which districts they'll be running in this year.
After five hours of testimony and argument Thursday before all of the Marion Superior Court judges, no decision was made on how to handle council redistricting.
Attorneys for Republicans and Democrats were told they need to file written arguments by the close of business on Monday, but there's no guarantee when a decision on new district lines will be made.
Until then, candidates who want to run for the council are essentially filing for districts that might not exist by the time of the primary elections, scheduled for May 6.
Republicans argued that the district plan they pushed through the council last year should be used for this year's elections, even though it was rejected by Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat.
"We demonstrated that in every key criteria, not only did it not violate the law, it was better than any of the plans that were submitted," William Bock, attorney for Republican council members, said in his closing argument.
Democrats replied that the judges should use their district maps or appoint a special master to draw yet another map. Attorney William Groth said Republicans wanted to use a map with oddly shaped districts that were designed to keep the GOP in control of the council.
"The Borst map," Groth said, referring to council President Phil Borst, has districts that are not compact, which "generally indicates a partisan or racial gerrymander."
Of the 29 council members, 25 are elected from districts. State law says the candidate filing deadline is noon Feb. 21, but the redistricting case may not be resolved by then. There's speculation that the filing deadline or the primary elections may have to be delayed.
When the judges rule, they'll use evidence presented in Thursday's hearing, held in the council assembly room -- the only room in the City-County Building large enough to hold all 32 Superior Court judges, several sets of attorneys and dozens of displays.
Each party presented a redistricting expert to bolster its position, while the other side tried to dent the expert's credibility. Each side said the other was unfairly trying to tilt the political balance in its favor. And both parties said they had done the best job possible of handling black voters, grouping them into seven districts with majority black populations.
Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services Inc. of Washington, D.C., said the Democratic plan he had drawn this month produced districts that were more compact and regularly shaped than the Republican proposal. He compared one GOP district located near Downtown to a spider with "arms and legs extending out."
D. Stephen Voss, assistant professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, said the GOP plan had unusual-shaped districts because they brought communities together. One district jogged back and forth because it was centered on I-65 from 21st Street to 56th Street, he said.
By the end of the hearing, most of the judges had left the room.
The district dispute is an offshoot on the gradual shift of political power in Indianapolis and Marion County, where Democrats have cut into the solid advantage held by Republicans since the start of Uni-Gov more than three decades ago.
The GOP has controlled the council since the 1970 consolidation of most of city and county government. And past council district maps were drawn by Republican councils and approved by mayors from their party.
The Democrats came within one seat of gaining control of the council in 1999, the same year Peterson was elected. Council Republicans passed a redistricting plan last October, but Peterson vetoed it.
Since then, the case has gone to the panel of Superior Court judges, who face no formal deadline to issue a ruling.
Call Star reporter Kevin O'Neal at 1-317-327-7928.
Marion County's Superior Court judges have decided -- for now -- not to appoint an outside expert to draw new City-County Council district maps.
The council districts are in limbo as Democrats and Republicans fight over who draws the new maps that could determine control of the council for the next decade.
Because the GOP-controlled council and Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson failed to file a new map by a Nov. 8 deadline, state law says the 32 judges -- 17 Republicans and 15 Democrats -- get to draw the new boundaries.
The judges find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to pick sides in a political dispute.
Democrats are urging judges to appoint a special master -- an outside expert who will draw a map fair to both sides. The judges voted 15-14 to take that request under advisement. Two judges were absent from that vote, and one recused herself.
"Judges don't decide issues on a partisan basis. That's not what we do. That is not how we work. We try to follow the law," said Judge Robyn Moberly, a Republican. "That probably will come as a surprise to many councilmen."
Republicans -- who have seen their once-solid hold on the council erode in recent elections -- want the courts to adopt their map, which was approved by the council but vetoed by the mayor.
Democrats -- who have been shut out of the map-drawing process since Uni-Gov combined the city and county governments in 1970 -- say they will settle for a compromise giving both parties a fair chance at winning.
Bill Bock, a lawyer for the GOP council members, declined to comment.
The lawyer for Democrats on the council, Bill Groth, described the GOP's map as "political gerrymandering designed to keep the Republicans with 60 percent of the council seats for the next 10 years."
"The way they keep their hands clean is to appoint a special master from the academic world, somebody who has worked both sides of the aisle and is not tainted by partisan interests in Marion County," Groth said. "We feel quite strongly that the court would be making a serious error of law by adopting one of the partisan plans that was introduced during the legislative process."
The parties will argue the merits of their cases before the judges at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the City-County Building's Public Assembly Room.
Democrats may have kept control of the Indiana Statehouse in last week's elections, but Republicans won the "popular vote."
Republicans got 56 percent of the vote in the 100 elections for the Indiana House of Representatives. The Democrats only got 41 percent, and the Libertarians 3.
The Democrats were still plenty happy, maybe because they were able to hold on to a majority in the Indiana House. And they did this even though their candidates got just 41 percent of all the votes cast in those elections.
It's similar to the way that George W. Bush was elected president by the Electoral College, even though Al Gore actually had more votes.
For 2004, some Democrats have formed a group with the motto "Re-Elect Gore in '04."
Get it? Really he should have won, see, because he got the most votes.
But their Democratic cousins here don't quite see it that way when it comes to our legislative races.
According to my spreadsheet, Republican House candidates won a total of 751,925 votes for all the House races compared with 545,764 for the Democrats. Libertarian candidates got 32,951.
But the Democrats won 51 of the 100 seats, and the power of being the House majority party, because they were able to skillfully draw good districts for their people in last year's redistricting after the 2000 Census.
State Democratic Chairman Peter Manous said that Republicans got more votes partly because the GOP had more uncontested races. Indeed, Democrats simply didn't run in 32 House races. Republicans stayed out of only 18.
State Republican Chairman Jim Kittle said the total vote numbers could point to a GOP victory in the governor's race in two years.
"It wasn't even a near miss," he said. "This is as well as Republicans have done in years."
Twenty years ago, the roles were reversed. The Republicans had power in the Indiana House when the 1980 Census was taken, so they got to draw the maps.
Then as now, the party in power can ignore county and municipal boundaries and draw the districts to produce as many safe seats for its members as possible. This is called gerrymandering, and it's bad government, because the people in a district may have nothing in common other than a squiggly district boundary line on the map.
The Democrats sued in 1982 after this happened to them, saying the gerrymandered districts drawn by Republicans were unfair. The Supreme Court in 1986 allowed the Indiana districts to stand. But the court said gerrymandering could still be ruled unconstitutional if it consistently diluted a party's voting power for more than just one or two elections.
Edward ORea, a plaintiff in that case, is today a Marion County Superior Court bailiff and a an elected member of the Washington Township Advisory Board. He said Democrats are doing OK now, and he doesn't mind the way the maps are drawn.
Of course the Democrats don't mind, said Bill Blomquist, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
"They held on in an election that they didn't get the most votes in."
Or to put it another way, as the old political saying goes: Where you stand depends on where you sit. And while they might be outvoted, the Dems are sitting pretty good right now.
Even after lawmakers approved far-reaching reforms to the state's election system last year, the candidates running to be the state's top election official support a few more changes. Secretary of State candidates Todd Rokita, a Republican, and Democrat John Fernandez each said polling places should be more accommodating for those with disabilities. Rokita also wants people to show a photo ID before voting.
Rokita offered his campaign promises in a document called the "Rokita Roadmap," which includes calls for more accountability and greater accessibility to the polls.
Rokita proposed more training for poll workers on how to assist disabled voters. He agreed with an advocacy group's call for a telephone hotline for disabled voters denied access to the polls.
According to the Governor's Planning Council for People with Disabilities, as many as 90 percent of places where Hoosiers can cast their ballot are not fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Fernandez included accessibility to the polls as part of a 10-point plan he released in June.
When vision-impaired Hoosiers vote, they need assistance from someone else -- a family member or poll worker -- to cast their ballot. Technology is available to allow those with vision disabilities to cast their ballot in private. Fernandez pressed election officials to take that into consideration when replacing their outdated voting systems.
"It is the job of our Secretary of State to ensure that every Hoosier who wants to vote and is eligible has the opportunity to cast a private ballot," Fernandez said.
Rokita also wants all voters to display photo identification before voting.
"Having and displaying ID is part of modern life," he said. "Does it make sense if it is easier to defraud an election than to write a check to the guy who delivers your pizza?"
Sink-Burris has said the best election reform will be to end gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts that favor candidates from one party.
Rokita and Fernandez have each called for changes in the four-member Election Commission, a bipartisan panel that decides Indiana election disputes. Often the committee deadlocks 2-2 along partisan lines. Although the Secretary of State is the top election official, he or she has no authority over the commission or the bipartisan Election Division within the state agency.
Rokita wants the Secretary of State to be the tie-breaking vote on the commission.
"This system, quite frankly, is broken and lacks accountability to the voters," he said.
Fernandez, the mayor of Bloomington, agrees that someone needs to be able to cast the tie-breaking vote but continues to look at several avenues, said his spokeswoman, Angela Belden.
Jagged lines on maps and heated debates over fair boundaries rarely lure big crowds to government meeting rooms.
But for the 25 City-County Council members whose political borders will be adjusted in the coming months, the redistricting process is emerging as the most important issue of the year.
The political games began last week, when a council committee argued over and eventually approved the rules for drawing the new maps. Republicans and Democrats have until Nov. 8 to create their separate proposals, accept ideas from the public and approve a set of boundaries.
And if events unfold as they have in years past, the process will be resolved in a courtroom -- with taxpayers footing the legal bill.
Marion County's population increased 7.9 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Most growth occurred in the edges of the county, which means drastic changes will be needed to create fair and balanced districts that satisfy state law.
Each county voter will cast a ballot next year for one local council member and four at-large members.
While both parties have promised to listen to the redistricting debate, it's likely that Republicans -- with a one-vote majority on the council -- will get the maps they want.
"We're going to pass a plan, and obviously the other side isn't going to like it," said Majority Leader Phil Borst, who predicted a 15-14 final vote along party lines.
Then, the redistricting proposal historically would go to the mayor for a final decision.
That's where a new twist comes in. For the first time since the creation of the City-County Council, the mayor is a Democrat.
Borst said he's not sure the mayor's approval is necessary. The past two mayors have approved new maps, but Borst said the state statute doesn't expressly require it.
"I'm no attorney, but I can see it both ways," he said.
City Attorney Scott Chinn said Mayor Bart Peterson does have the legal right to accept or decline the council's redistricting plan.
If the mayor is allowed to weigh in and decides to veto the maps, the matter would head to the judicial arena, with the 32 Marion Superior Court judges hashing out the problem or drawing their own boundaries.
Either way, the stage is set for an unrehearsed political clash.
Council Republicans have never before had to draw up new districts under a mayor from the opposing party. Peterson's 1999 victory was the first by a Democrat in 36 years. In that 1999 election, Democrats fell just 38 votes short of controlling the council.
Although he won't speculate on the outcome of next year's election, the mayor admits he'll be pulling to give his party an edge with the maps.
"I don't think there's any secret here that Republicans will try to make these seats as Republican as possible, and Democrats -- including me -- will try to make them as Democrat as possible," Peterson said.
No matter where the issue ends up, it's likely that someone, somewhere, will sue.
In 1991, the last time council members created new districts, a pending federal lawsuit and local litigation between Common Cause of Indiana and the city cost taxpayers more than $70,000.
This year, politicians on both sides know there's a lot at stake.
"Drawing these maps becomes one of the Republicans' last attempts at maintaining control of the council," said Democrat Karen Celestino Horseman.
Robert Elrod, legal counsel for the Republican caucus, said the majority party will make sure the process is balanced.
Beginning next month, he said, citizens will be able to go online or to the library and create their own maps for consideration. The council also will hold a series of hearings so residents can voice their opinions.
But will they?
"Nobody pays too much attention to this," said Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause of Indiana. "It is one of those things that's really arcane and dry, and the public just doesn't even think about it."
Vaughn said her group doesn't have enough people to monitor local redistricting this year, but she hopes people will pay attention.
Norm Primus, a citizen activist who said he has developed a fair method of drawing maps that anyone can use, was active with Common Cause during the 1991 redistricting. He said he helped draft more than a dozen plans that were presented to council members, but Republicans ultimately accepted their own proposal.
Primus, who now runs his own redistricting consulting business in Connecticut and lobbies for public access to government meetings, said local residents have to be involved with every step of the map-drawing process to understand which plan accurately reflects the community.
"The thing I have found is that with fairness and openness, more people run for office because they feel it's not stacked against anybody," he said.
Move a line here, move a line there, and pretty soon you're talking shift of power.
At least, that's what Marion County Republicans are hoping.
The 2000 census resulted in Indiana losing one of its 10 congressional seats, forcing the redrawing of new boundaries for the nine remaining districts.
In Marion County, the boundary lines for what has been the 10th District have been pushed out to encompass more suburban land. The new district -- to be renamed the 7th District -- will include voters who have grown used to being represented by Republicans.
And that, say Republicans, might help them win the Indianapolis congressional seat that has been held by Democrats for all but 14 of the past 50 years.
Democrats, though, dismiss GOP hopes with two words: They're dreaming.
Republican Brose McVey, an aide to Dan Quayle and Dan Coats when they were U.S. senators from Indiana, believes it's a dream within his reach.
Today, McVey will announce his candidacy to run against the three-term Democratic incumbent, Julia Carson.
"It's all come together to tell me this is the time to do it," he said.
McVey -- who found his home transplanted in Carson's district from that of Republican Rep. Dan Burton's -- said redistricting has made the seat more competitive.
Two years ago, Carson walloped Republican Marvin Scott, winning 59 percent of the vote.
But the new expanded boundaries encompass 106,000 new people -- about 28,000 of whom are old enough to vote. Those voters aren't accustomed to voting for Carson, he and other Republicans say.
McVey, who's a senior consultant in the law firm of Bingham Summers Welsh & Spilman, said he knows the district still favors Democrats. But he notes that U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar and Marion County Sheriff Jack Cottey -- both Republicans -- easily won this area in their last elections.
Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy scoffs at McVey's hopes that redistricting will help his campaign: "He can keep having his dreams, but that's all he's going to have -- his dreams."
Treacy said all of Marion County continues to be more Democratic -- a trend that helped Bart Peterson in 1999 become the city's first Democratic mayor in three decades.
State Rep. Ed Mahern, D-Indianapolis, is the architect of the new maps, which were approved by state legislators earlier this year.
Carson's new territory, he said, is as Democrat-friendly as ever.
The new voters the district will encompass were often people who moved out of Democrat-leaning Center Township. And many of the Republicans who had lived in these outer townships have moved out of the county entirely, Mahern said.
High-profile GOP candidates like Lugar and Cottey might have won the support of those people, but Mahern points to other races as better indicators of the district's political leanings.
In 2000, Mahern said, Gov. Frank O'Bannon beat Republican challenger David McIntosh almost 2-to-1 within the new district's boundaries. George W. Bush easily carried the state in the presidential race, but Democrat Al Gore won over the new 7th District voters, beating Bush by more than 25,000 votes.
McVey says redistricting is not the only reason he's optimistic about breaking the lease Democrats have held on the congressional seat since 1974.
McVey -- so far the only Republican seeking that party's nomination -- says the off-year election, with no race for governor or president on the ballot, will allow voters to focus on congressional races. He believes they'll find Carson is "out of step with her own constituency."
Carson, he said, has voted against such things as the recent tax cut, putting her out of the mainstream of the district's voters.
Carson -- who says she's definitely running for re-election -- said recent events are validating her vote against the tax cut. Even before the terrorist attacks, which will force huge government expenditures, the tax cut was already forcing the government to "raid the Social Security trust fund," she said.
Carson believes most people would choose the national well-being over "a little more change jangling in their pocket."
After Indiana lost a Congressional seat in the 2000 Census, the state's Democrats, who control the State House, redrew the Congressional district boundaries so that two Republicans will be vying for the same seat in the 2002 primaries. Congressman Steve Buyer, who represents the fifth district, lives in Monticello, which will be in the new fourth district. Congressman Brian Kerns, who represents the seventh district, lives in Prarieton but is planning to move to Hendricks County, in the new distict.
Representatives Steve Buyer and Brian Kerns should be allies. They are both lifelong Hoosiers. They are both staunchly conservative Republicans. They represent adjacent Congressional districts in central Indiana. They are of the same generation; Mr. Buyer is 42 and Mr. Kerns is 44. But there is deep hostility between the two incumbents that can be traced to last December, when Indiana learned it would lose one Congressional seat in 2002. Thanks to the cartographical handiwork of Democrats, who control the State House and the critical redrawing of the state's Congressional maps, Mr. Kerns and Mr. Buyer suddenly find themselves lumped in the same district. So instead of working together for the people of Indiana, they are clawing at each other, driven by the rawest of political impulses: survival. Each man claims, stubbornly and passionately, that Indiana's new Fourth Congressional District - stretching from the flat prairie in the north-central part of the state to some of the hilliest landscapes nearly 200 miles south - is rightfully his. "I call the district my district," said Mr. Buyer (pronounced BOO- yer), a five-term congressman who lives in the northern part of the new district. Asked about Mr. Kerns's district, Mr. Buyer said, "He doesn't have one."
He even offered to help Mr. Kerns find a job in the Bush administration. "I told him, `If you become the victim of redistricting, we'll do everything we can to make sure your family is taken care of,' " Mr. Buyer said. Mr. Kerns, who was elected to Congress in November, sees it differently. "I consider myself the incumbent," he said, noting that he represents about 66 percent of the new district's residents. Indiana is the first state to approve new maps for its Congressional districts. But dramas between incumbents like Mr. Kerns and Mr. Buyer will play out around the country as states adjust to new census data by refashioning the boundaries of legislative districts before the 2002 elections. The new maps will pit Democrats against Republicans and, in many cases, set off even more bitter struggles between incumbents of the same party.
While redistricting has always been a messy political enterprise, Republicans and Democrats predict that the battles before the 2002 elections will be fiercer than ever because Republicans hold control of the House by the narrowest margin since the Eisenhower administration. More than any other single factor, the carving of new boundaries could determine how many seats each party picks up - or loses. Although the newly drawn Fourth District in Indiana is considered a safely Republican seat, the delegation is losing a Republican by combining the two incumbents' districts. And the intraparty feuding here is so intense that it has exasperated Representative Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "They don't help matters by going and carving each other up on a personal basis every day," Mr. Davis said. "Kerns and Buyer are gaming this in an inappropriate fashion. Each one of them has come to me to try to get the other guy out. It ain't going to work that way." With both candidates refusing to back down, Republicans are bracing for a blood bath. "This is going to be a nuclear primary," said Mike McDaniel, the chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, who estimated that, combined, the two men will spend at least $2 million attacking each other. Well beyond Indiana, individual battles are brewing in state after state, district after district. "It's a very selfish enterprise," Mr. Davis said. "Everybody looks after themselves first, the party second. It's every man for himself."
Staking Their Claims
Mr. Kerns and Mr. Buyer have had only one conversation, over the telephone, about their predicament. It did not go well. Mr. Kerns said he made a "courtesy call to touch base" with Mr. Buyer in April, after Indiana Democrats came up with a draft map of the new districts. "He immediately suggested that I was the person without a district," Mr. Kerns said. When he told Mr. Buyer that he intended to run in the Fourth District, Mr. Kerns said, "Steve became agitated." Mr. Buyer has a different recollection. "The reality is, I referred to the Fourth District as my district and the guy flipped out," he said. "He turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde." Only about 3 percent of Mr. Buyer's constituents live in the new district, but he argues that he is its true heir because he lives in Monticello, a town in the northeast tip of the district. He said he is convinced he will win the primary because he has been in Congress longer and has more to show for himself. Mr. Kerns does not live in the district but plans to move there, though he is not required to. "It's where you live," Mr. Buyer said. "We had musical chairs, and he was left without a seat." Such talk leaves Mr. Kerns incredulous. "Since I represent the majority of people in the district," he said, "it makes sense for me to seek re- election there." While only a freshman, Mr. Kerns countered that he was far more in tune with the district because he was a top aide to the lawmaker he succeeded, Representative Ed Pease. Moreover, supporters say there is good will toward Mr. Kerns because his father-in-law, John T. Myers, represented the area for three decades.
Mr. Kerns and Mr. Buyer do not have to run against each other. More of Mr. Buyer's current constituents live in the new Second District, an open seat to the north. And Mr. Kerns's home is now in the Eighth District, where some Indiana Democrats hoped he would challenge the incumbent Republican, Representative John Hostettler. One reason both incumbents covet the new Fourth is that the district is so heavily Republican that whoever wins the primary will be the overwhelming favorite in the general election and could well hang on to the seat at least until the next redistricting in a decade. The primary winner's success in a general election in the nearby districts would not be so assured. Democrats are gleeful. Asked if he felt for Mr. Buyer and Mr. Kerns, Ed Mahern, a Democratic state legislator who drew the new map (with the help of computer software and technical consultants), smiled and said, "I don't lose a lot of sleep over it." Voters are already conflicted by the specter of dueling incumbents. "I support Steve Buyer and Brian Kerns," said Hope Ellington, 35, at a lunch featuring Mr. Buyer that was held by a Republican business group here in the new district. (Mr. Kerns addressed the group three weeks earlier.) Scouring a copy of the new map, Ms. Ellington said, "They got the dirty shaft."
Drawing Partisan Lines
Mr. Buyer asserted that Democrats were particularly tough on him because they resented his role as a House manager in the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton and because he assisted Republicans with the Florida recount after the November election. Mr. Mahern scoffed at the allegation, saying that Republicans were lucky he did not try to pit Mr. Buyer against Representative Dan Burton, an even more outspoken conservative whose district is in suburban Indianapolis. "If I really had the evil notions that people think I have, I would have put Burton and Buyer together," Mr. Mahern said. Mr. Davis acknowledged that Republicans were not above trying the same ploy in states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, where his party controls the process and where seats will have to be forfeited. "This brings out the most partisan spirits in everybody involved," he said.
Indiana's new boundaries became law in May when the state's redistricting commission met at Franklin College, southeast of Indianapolis, to consider the proposal. But there was little deliberation. The fix was in from the start, because the commission was stacked with Democrats. Mr. Mahern presented the Democratic map, and the Republicans offered their alternative, which would have protected all the incumbents by eliminating Mr. Roemer's seat. After about a half-hour of perfunctory presentations, Marshall Bratton, a high school government teacher, rose to chastise the commission. "The five of you sit here as a panel under intense pressure from your political parties," Mr. Bratton said. "But the bottom line is that you have the power to do what is best for the state of Indiana. I would like to go back to my high school students this afternoon and say I am proud of what you have done." Instead, Mr. Bratton said, the maps were drawn to protect Democrats. "There is an arrogance on the part of our state Legislature reflected in these maps." Members of the commission barely looked at Mr. Bratton. Moments later, they approved the new map with no comment.
Learning the Territory
Long before Indiana's primary - which will be next May - the redistricting has already affected the behavior of Mr. Buyer and Mr. Kerns. Mr. Kerns, who has served in Congress for less than five months, is trying to acquaint himself with his constituents while also introducing himself to parts of the new Fourth District that he does not represent now. Mr. Buyer, too, has been scrambling to make himself known in new territory, and to learn it himself. When he was driving his beat-up truck from the Indianapolis airport to a town meeting here in the new district the other day, Mr. Buyer acted as if he was discovering the state for the first time. "See those hills there?" he said. "It's beautiful - sort of the Virginia look! I don't have those in my district. It's farm country; it's flat." Then he pointed to limestone poking through the ground, saying, "That's a very different site for me." Mr. Buyer finds himself campaigning in an area where the issues are different from his current district. "I come down here and talk about coal and the importance of clean air technology," he said. "But I can't talk in my district about coal, it just doesn't fit." While lawmakers usually like to show off how well they know the home turf, Mr. Buyer pulled into a gas station, worried that he overshot the exit on the Interstate. "I don't trust my instincts here," he said. With much consultation of a map, Mr. Buyer finally found the Great Wall (and, to his surprise, learned that it was a restaurant), where the town meeting was held. Afterward, he was so unsure how to get to the next stop, a radio station, that he asked his district director if he could follow him. But his aide was just as confused. To make matters worse, the congressman was so flustered that he left his speech on the plane and his cell phone in the restaurant and locked his keys in his truck. "What a way to introduce myself to the district," Mr. Buyer said. "The guy who locked his keys in the truck."
It was just what Marshall Bratton expected, and just what he'd hoped wouldn't happen. A five-member commission of lawmakers -- three Democrats and two Republicans -- voted along party lines Thursday to adopt new congressional maps. The decision was made with virtually no debate as everyone in the Franklin College chapel where the meeting was held knew the Democrats had the votes to pass the maps they had drawn. Bratton, a government and economics teacher at Greenwood Community High School, was one of a handful of people who came to Franklin to witness the district boundaries being set, and one of only three people to accept the commission's invitation to speak. No questions were allowed, but Bratton didn't have a question so much as a plea: "Put partisan politics aside." Redistricting, however, is one of the most political of all processes.
It was especially so this year, as the 2000 census forced Indiana to lose one congressional seat, because the state's growth hadn't kept pace with that of some other states. The maps both parties presented Thursday erased the current 5th District in west-central Indiana. Republicans backed off an earlier proposal that placed U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, the only black and only woman to represent Indiana in Congress, in the same district as Republican Dan Burton. Their new proposal did not put two incumbents together in any district. With Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer opting not to seek re-election in the current 3rd District, Republicans reshaped that area to scoop up the White County home of Republican Stephen Buyer. Under the Democratic maps, Buyer, who currently represents the 5th District, is in a new 4th District that stretches from White County south through Franklin before ending in Lawrence County in southern Indiana. Republican Brian Kerns, just elected in November to the current 7th District, has his Vigo County home placed in the same district as another Republican, U.S. Rep. John Hostettler. Kerns, though, has said he will move to the new 4th District, setting the stage for what may be a bloody political battle between himself and Buyer.
While that fight is of intense interest to politicians, the public focuses more on how the district lines affect them. Karl and Bonnie McClure of Franklin said they know their Democratic votes are swamped in a Republican sea in both the current map and the one passed Thursday. They'll go from a district that overwhelmingly supports Burton to the new 4th District, over which Buyer and Kerns are fighting. "I don't care who wins the district. I do care about the shape of the districts," Karl McClure said. He finds it "ridiculous" that their home is now in a district that stretches from the farmland of northern Indiana, through the Far Westside of Indianapolis, to the rolling hills of southern Indiana. Bratton, who said he's an independent voter, agreed. "I can only say Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts would be proud," he told the commission, citing the 19th century political rascal whose name gave birth to the word "gerrymander." "I'd like to go back to my high school this afternoon and say to my students I'm very proud of what was done. I have some fear that I won't be able to, that I'll instead go back rather cynical about the entire process," Bratton said. "What needs to be done here is the right thing, not the best thing for those who serve, but the best thing for those who are served."
House Speaker John Gregg, D-Sandborn, dismissed criticism
as politically motivated. He noted that one man, Jim Banks of Bloomington,
who spoke against the Democratic maps has worked on Hostettler's
campaigns. It's difficult to draw such large districts for political
advantage, Gregg said. Democrats had the tie-breaking vote on this
commission and the one 10 years ago because the party held one legislative
chamber, the House, and the governor's office. But under the
Democratic-drawn maps now in place, he said, Indiana has six Republicans
and four Democrats in Congress. Rep. Ed Mahern, the Indianapolis Democrat
who drew the new maps, said he thinks they create four safe Republican
districts, two safe Democratic districts and three -- the 2nd, 8th and 9th
-- that either party can win. The boundaries will go into effect with the
2002 congressional elections and last for a decade.
Anew Congressional map that would have pitted Republican Reps. Jim Nussle and James Leach against each other next year was rejected by the Iowa state Senate last week. The Legislature will now be forced to return to work to approve a remap plan. On a 27-21 vote, the state Senate rejected a map drawn by Iowa's non- partisan Legislative Service Bureau that had been criticized by Republicans. It received the vote of only one GOP state Senator. The proposed lines included significant changes for practically every member of the Iowa delegation.
In addition to throwing Leach and Nussle into the same seat, it would have reduced Republicans' strength in Rep. Greg Ganske's(R) 4th district, making it even more vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. Ganske is giving up the seat for a campaign against Sen. Tom Harkin (D). In an interview last week Iowa state House Speaker Brent Siegrist (R), who may run to replace Ganske, based his opposition to the plan on the idea that " population variances" under the bureau's plan are too high, meaning that the number of people in each district varies greatly. But Democrats say Siegrist may be motivated by his own political concerns. They note that the current plan offers him two unappealing options in 2002: running in Ganske's Democratic-leaning open seat, which does not include Siegrist's base of Council Bluffs, or a GOP stronghold in western Iowa that Rep. Tom Latham(R) is also eyeing. Latham would relocate to accommodate a move by Nussle under a plan supported by some GOP officials, and Siegrist said he thinks a second map could create a Republican stronghold that would pit him against Boswell. " I've known Leonard for a long time. He's a great guy, but he would have a tough time if he got tossed in here," the Speaker said.
The LSB will produce another map, which the Legislature only has the option of voting up or down. But if it moves to a third proposal, legislators can make changes to the plan. Although Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack has veto power over the lines, and some lawmakers are already predicting that the state Supreme Court will end up drawing the lines for Iowa's five House districts. The bureau was first assigned to draw House maps following the 1980 census. In 1981 the Legislature twice rejected bureau maps, ultimately drawing one themselves. In 1991 legislators accepted the bureau's first map.
When the Indiana Legislature adjourned April 29, it assured that a five-member commission controlled by Democrats would put the finishing touches on Congressional redistricting in the state. The commission will meet May 10. Indiana is losing one of its 10 seats in the House, and the body is expected to approve a plan that could pit GOP Reps. Brian Kerns and Steve Buyer against each other next year. The commission consists of two Republicans -state Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Garton and state Sen. Sue Landske, who chairs the elections committee - and three Democrats - House Speaker John Gregg, state House elections committee Chairman Thomas Kromkowski and state Rep. Ed Mahern, chairman of the state House redistricting committee. Mahern was appointed by Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon. Garton, who will begin the commission meeting as chairman, was glum about the prospects of the Republicans in the process. "Ican count,"he told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "It's 3-to-2, and I'm sure I'll be replaced as chairman pretty quickly."
Charles in Charge?
Another legislative leader looking at a seat in the House
next year might be Georgia state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker
(D). Bill Shipp's Georgia, a newsletter covering the ins and outs of the
state's politics, reports that Democrats who control the remapping process
will attempt to significantly weaken Rep. Charlie Norwood's(R) position in
the 10th district and create an Augusta-based seat that Walker could,
well, walk into next year. The newsletter also floated the idea that state
House Majority Leader Larry Walker(D) could see a central Georgia district
designed with his political future in mind. It also reports that
party-switching Rep. Nathan Deal(R) and prominent impeachment player Rep.
Bob Barr(R) could find themselves facing off in a 2002 primary when all is
said and done. Democrats are eager to change the current balance of eight
Republicans and three Democrats in the state delegation (Georgia will also
gain two seats), but they should keep an eye on history. They also
controlled the last round of redistricting, and an aggressive attempt to
hurt then Rep. Newt Gingrich(R) ended up backfiring. Before redistricting
Democrats had controlled nine of the state's 10 House
The legislation, which includes the Democratic proposal for redrawing congressional districts to reflect one less seat, is now eligible for amendments in the full House. It could be approved this week. Democrats have the upper hand when it comes to determining the new congressional landscape. Although Senate Republicans will propose their own congressional map, the issue would be determined by a commission controlled by Democrats if Senate Republicans and House Democrats can't agree by the regular session adjournment deadline of April 29. House Democrats and the GOP-ruled Senate must agree on a plan for new legislative districts. However, there is expected to be minimal interference with each chamber's proposal. Redistricting is required every 10 years in accordance with the U.S. Census to assure that legislative districts reflect population trends. In the House Elections Committee, most of the questions from Republicans concerned the Democratic plan for the chamber's 100 seats.
Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said his caucus tried
to draw districts that were equal in population, respected minority
populations, were compact and where possible kept counties and cities and
even school corporations together. "We have 44 counties with only one
representative, as opposed to the Democratic map with only 24 counties
with one representative," Behning said. He said the districts in the
Democratic plan "wander Indiana." Rep. Ed Mahern of Indianapolis, the
redistricting leader for House Democrats, said he did not intentionally
divide counties and cities or towns. He said he was simply trying to put
the right number of people in each district. "Did I go through and try to
make every district pretty? No, I didn't," he said. He said every
incumbent but one in both parties would still live in the district they
now represent. The exception, Rep. Claire Leuck, D-Fowler, is not seeking
re-election in 2002. In answering questions from Republicans, Mahern
repeatedly said he did not take race or ethnicity into consideration in
drawing new districts. He said doing so could subject the new maps to
lawsuits. Key Senate Republicans scheduled a fly-around tour on Tuesday to
Gary, Fort Wayne, New Albany and Evansville to take public testimony on
their plan for new Senate districts.
It was a tale of the haves and the have-nots Thursday as Republicans in the Indiana Senate and House each released their vision of what new legislative districts should look like. The House Republicans, who hold only 47 seats in the 100-member House, held a news conference to present maps that they believe, if enacted, could give them a 60-seat majority. But for them, it was like a kid wishing for a pony for Christmas: It isn't going to happen. But Senate Republicans, who dominate their 50-seat chamber, can do more than window shop. They have more than enough votes to put their maps into law. New legislative maps for the House, Senate and Congress are drawn every 10 years with new census data. To the public, they are invisible boundaries. But for politicians, where the lines are drawn can mean the difference between winning and losing.
That means the difference between which agenda gets enacted and which -- like the House Republican and Senate Democratic -- become mere footnotes. So far, though, the public may be paying scant attention. Thursday, when Sen. Becky Skillman, the Bedford Republican presiding over the Senate Legislative Apportionment and Elections Committee hearing, asked for public comment, the room filled with politicians and reporters was silent. "Anybody?" Skillman asked plaintively, before one woman -- Laura Arnold of Indianapolis -- stood. She's a lobbyist on environmental issues but was there, she said, just as a citizen trying to find out what would be happening in her Center Township district. How, she asked, do members of the public figure out how these maps affect them? Sen. Pat Miller, the Indianapolis Republican heading the Senate's redistricting effort, had just described the changes to each district and displayed color-coded maps that contain county lines, but not streets or other landmarks. "It's very difficult to tell," Arnold said, looking at the kaleidoscope that represented Marion County.
One computer is available at the state library, she was told, where the public can plot the same changes being proposed to see how their neighborhood is affected. And, Miller said, Republicans and Democrats on the redistricting subcommittee will fly Tuesday to Gary, Fort Wayne, New Albany and Evansville to hold 90-minute public hearings in each community. Julia Vaughn, policy director for the government watchdog group Common Cause of Indiana, bemoaned the seeming lack of public interest in redistricting. "I wish the public understood the significance of this," Vaughn said. Noting that the House Democrats, who control that chamber, will release their legislative maps today, Vaughn also questioned the ritual of competing, political maps for each chamber. That wouldn't happen, she said, if an independent commission drew the maps, as occurs in a handful of states. Nor, she said, would an independent commission worry about where incumbents live. That is a big factor in all the legislative maps that lawmakers will debate.
The Senate GOP maps avoided putting incumbents in the same district, to the relief of Senate Democrats. The House Republicans proposed putting two House Democrats together in the same Lake County district, where population has declined, while creating an open seat in booming, Republican-dominated Hamilton County. Miller insisted the Senate maps were not drawn with political advantage in mind. Instead, she said, the goals were to keep as many "communities of interest" together as possible -- that means not splitting cities, towns and counties whenever practical; not putting incumbents in the same district, forcing them to run against each other; and keeping the populations of each district as equal as possible. The 2000 Census showed that if every Senate district were equal, each would contain 121,610 residents.
The Senate GOP maps had a variation, from the largest to the smallest district, of just under 4 percent. The House Republicans said their 100 districts varied only 2 percent from the largest to smallest. If every House district were equal, each would have 60,805. Ten years ago, Senate Democrats fought bitterly over the maps, which they knew would reduce their numbers and which assured the defeat of then-Sen. Tony Maidenberg, a Democrat whose district became a GOP stronghold when much of Hamilton County was drawn into it. So far this year, Democrats are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, said Republicans had assured him that the Democrats would have input in the redistricting process. "I'm taking them at their word," he said. Their first view of the maps has raised some Democratic concerns -- particularly the proposed District 25, represented by Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. The GOP has proposed moving the district's western boundary into Hamilton County, which is filled with Republican voters.
Lanane said he hoped politics wasn't at play there, "but it certainly makes the district have a little different flavor than before." Democrats currently hold 18 seats in the 50-member Senate. Miller said there was no attempt to draw maps that leave Democrats with even fewer seats. Her guidelines were legal ones, she said, not political ones. Good, Hume said, because it could get worse for Democrats. "It could be 34 to 16," he said. That number would mean the GOP would hold two-thirds of the seats -- all they need to conduct business even if Democrats didn't show up. "I think it would be a bad thing, not only for Democrats but for the people, if one party was totally stripped of any power to have input," Hume said.
While Senate Democrats are trying to stave off political irrelevancy, House Republicans are trying to regain the majority. House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the maps his party wants the Democrats to consider would result in 60 Republicans in the 100-member House. Bosma predicted the House GOP maps are starkly different from the maps the House Democrats will unveil today. Republicans, he said, worked to keep legislative districts as compact as possible, rather than curling and curving through counties. Forty of Indiana's 92 counties, he said, would be represented by a single representative under the GOP plan. The maps Democrats drew 10 years ago, he said, kept only 27 counties undivided.