Senate Republicans say no to redistricting map changes

Senate Democrats lost in their final attempt Thursday to make changes to the Republican-drawn Indiana election district maps in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Democrats called nine amendments to the Senate floor, and all were shot down with votes along party lines. The stage is now set for the Republicans’ state legislative and congressional maps to pass out of the Legislature on Friday with few changes from when they were introduced.

Several amendments were attempts to make various changes to the proposed state Senate and congressional maps, and three others would have established new redistricting standards for the Legislature in 2030.

Debate and speeches on the floor stretched on for three hours. Democrats criticized the Republican-drawn maps as diluting Democrat and minority population votes by splitting up typically urban communities where those populations tend to be prominent.

Democrats first tried to amend in entirely new Senate and congressional maps drawn by citizens in the All IN For Democracy map-drawing contest. These maps prioritized making election districts more competitive in the Senate and would have kept the north side of Indianapolis in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District.

Political analysts say the GOP legislators’ maps protect Republicans’ dominance that has given them a 7-2 majority of Indiana’s U.S. House seats and built supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate.

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, sponsor of the redistricting legislation, said competitiveness was not a legal requirement, nor a priority for Republicans when drawing the maps. He added that the independently drawn Senate maps in the Democrats’ amendment violated the state constitution by drawing senators not up for reelection next year into the same districts.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, in a debate with Koch, said the proposed Senate maps were lopsided in voting patterns, making it a “suicide mission” for a Democrat to run against a Republican.

Lanane was drawn into the same district as Republican Sen. Mike Gaskill of Pendleton.

“We’re not saying you guys shouldn’t have a majority, you’re going to have the majority,” Lanane said. “But don’t tilt the field 180 degrees. Give us somewhat of an even playing field.”

Another amendment proposed pulling some Senate districts back into Marion County that jut into the surrounding counties. The amendment removed the Senate District 28 “finger” sticking from mostly-rural Hancock County into Warren Township in Marion County. District 28 was criticized at public meetings for its shape in the 2011 maps, and it was not changed much in the new proposed Senate maps.

“They are an urban Democrat-leaning population, and they are being pulled out into a predominantly rural community,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

Former Republican Sen. Beverly Gard, who used to represent District 28, told the Indianapolis Business Journal in July the district was changed up in 2011 to dilute Democrat votes from Warren Township.

The amendment would have also pulled Senate District 32, held by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, back into Marion County, instead extending into Johnson County.

Koch disputed all of the amendments on the floor and said the Marion County changes the Democrats proposed would create problems with the lines in the other districts.

Other failed amendments to the Senate maps would have made changes to not split the cities of Evansville, Lafayette and West Lafayette, and Fort Wayne, which would be splintered into four Senate districts.

The maps will be up for a vote in the full Senate at 9 a.m. Friday.

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