FILE - Indiana Capitol building

Indiana Capitol building in Indianapolis

(The Center Square) – Indiana state senators released their new map of state senate districts, showing districts that appear to be more compact and that cut across fewer county and city boundaries.

“We repeatedly heard in our listening tour across the state that the public wants communities of interest kept together, and that is what we have aspired to do as we drew these maps,” said State Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford. “With more than 90 percent of cities, towns and townships kept whole, I believe we have honored that request while navigating the competing interests that inevitably exist when you undertake a project of this magnitude.”

The new map, drawn with 2020 census data, increases the number of whole counties in one state senate district from 49 to 65. Also, it shows 96% of townships in one senate district, along with 92% of all cities and towns.

Congressional and state legislative maps are redrawn by legislatures every 10 years, in the year following the decennial census. This is the second time in a row that Republicans have drawn the maps.

The proposed new congressional and Indiana House maps were released last week, and two public hearings were at the Statehouse. On Monday, the Indiana House Committee on Elections & Apportionment voted to approve the maps and send them to the House floor.

Democrats have complained the maps are gerrymandered and designed to retain the Republicans supermajority in both the state House and Senate.

There are 71 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives, with one vacancy due to the death of Republican Rep. Steve Davisson. In the Indiana Senate, there are 39 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

At the House elections committee meeting on Monday, Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the new House map is “a perpetuation of the 2011 map” which he said involves “packing and cracking the Democratic constituencies to water down the influence of that vote.”

He pointed to a news report that showed the new map of Indiana House districts has a 70-30 split, saying this would be fine if Republicans get 70% of the statewide vote, but they only get 56-57%.

Republicans have countered that in Indiana, Democratic voters are concentrated in just a handful of counties, whereas Republicans have majorities in the rest of the state.

In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won 87 of 92 Indiana counties while President Biden won five – Lake (Hammond, Gary), Marion (Indianapolis), Monroe (Bloomington), St. Joseph (South Bend) and Tippecanoe (Lafayette).

Following the release of the Senate map, Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, said Republican senators had split Tippecanoe County in two on purpose “to assure Tippecanoe County only has GOP representation after it was one of the only counties that voted for Democrats in the past decade. #Gerrymandering.”

The Indiana Democratic Party retweeted this.

The Democrats have also questioned the process, whereby the new maps are drawn by just a handful of Republican legislators, assisted by the Legislative Services Agency, with the Senate map released late in the process.

“The @indgop will make sure Hoosiers won’t be able to provide input on the new senate maps,” the Democrats tweeted on Tuesday. “Their extreme partisanship comes before Indiana’s future.”

In a press release Tuesday, Republicans announced the Senate elections committee, chaired by State Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, will hold a public meeting to take public comments on all three maps Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Indiana Statehouse. The committee is scheduled to meet again the following day to hear amendments and vote to approve the maps. The full Senate is expected to meet Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

“We have said all along that public input is an important part of the redistricting process,” Ford said in a statement. “We saw a great turnout from the public during the committee meetings in the House of Representatives last week, and we hope to hear additional feedback Monday in our committee meeting when we discuss proposed new Senate districts.