Indiana governor signs GOP’s contentious redistricting plan

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Indiana’s governor gave his approval Monday to the Republican redrawing of the state’s congressional and legislative districts that critics argued gives the party an election advantage for the next decade.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature was the final step in the redistricting for Indiana’s nine congressional seats and 150 seats in the state Legislature that were drawn by Republican leaders behind closed doors and adopted Friday in the Legislature without any support from Democrats.

The maps faced intense criticism as diluting the influence of minority and urban voters in favor of white voters living in rural areas to bolster the election prospects for Republicans. That came after the 2020 census found that the state’s white and rural populations both shrank over the past 10 years. 

Holcomb said in a statement he believed that legislators completed the redistricting work in “an orderly and transparent way.”

Political analysts say the new maps that will be used through the 2030 elections protect the Republican dominance that has boosted them to a 7-2 majority of Indiana’s U.S. House seats and commanding majorities in the state Legislature. Critics argued the process was rushed as Republicans pushed for Friday’s final votes just 17 days after the release of their congressional and Indiana House maps — and 10 days after the state Senate maps became public.

Opponents of the Republican plan pointed to Donald Trump winning Indiana with 57% of the presidential vote last year as Republicans captured 71 of the 100 Indiana House seats and 39 of the 50 state Senate seats.

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne called the new maps the result of a “partisan process” that resulted in gerrymandered districts drawn to help Republicans win elections. Republicans rebuffed calls from Democrats and voting-rights groups for Indiana to join other states with an independent commission to draw up new election districts.

“Throughout the redistricting process, countless Hoosiers voiced the ideal that voters should choose their representation, not the other way around,” GiaQuinta said. “Unfortunately, Republicans put political gain before democracy as they struck down our proposal to restore integrity to Indiana’s elections.”

The 2020 census found that while Indiana grew 4.7% to about 6.8 million residents over the past decade. Indianapolis and its surrounding counties saw three-quarters of Indiana’s population growth, while 49 of the state’s 92 counties lost residents.

Fewer people in Indiana identified as white, as the state’s share of white population fell from 81.5% in 2010 to 75.5% in 2020. Minority populations grew, with the Black population’s share up from 9.0% in 2010 to 9.4% in 2020 and the Hispanic share increasing from 6.0% to 8.2% over the decade.

Republicans maintained they followed federal and state laws to match Indiana’s population shifts while avoiding splitting counties and cities between multiple districts as much as possible.

Democrats and civil rights groups countered by pointing to the shifting of increasingly diverse parts of Indianapolis from the congressional district narrowly won last year by Republican U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz into the solidly Democratic district held by Rep. Andre Carson.

Objections were also raised about the fragmenting of Fort Wayne’s large Black and Latino communities among three likely Republican state Senate districts that will have rural white voters making up the majorities and making similar splits in the urban areas of Evansville and Lafayette-West Lafayette.

Check back with this week for more on the reaction to the 2021 redistricting process.

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