Elected Officials and Local Government and State Government and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government and Redistricting

Indiana Senate panel backs GOP redistricting plan

April 14, 2011

A Republican-led Indiana Senate committee on Thursday approved a plan for new Senate election districts that Democrats maintain unfairly dilutes black and Hispanic voting strength.

House Democrats, meanwhile, offered a redistricting plan that they say would create 26 closely contested districts among the 100 House seats, up from the 14 in the proposal from majority Republicans.

The Senate Elections Committee voted 6-2 on party lines to send to the full Senate the Senate redistricting plan and proposed new districts for Indiana's nine congressional seats.

The committee modified several Senate districts from the plan Republican released on Monday, with the greatest changes in the districts covering the area southeast of Indianapolis to the Ohio state line.

Democratic Sen. Tim Lanane of Anderson said the changes did nothing to address his belief that the Republican plan packs minority voters into two Senate districts in Indianapolis, while splitting minority voters among three districts in Fort Wayne.

"We could pass maps that would allow for much more significant minority participation," Lanane said. "That's still an issue."

Republicans have a 37-13 majority in the Senate and Democrats say their analysis of the GOP-proposed districts show that at most 17 of the districts having enough Democratic voting strength to match their party's statewide average in recent elections.

Republicans said the Indianapolis districts preserve minority representation and that their plans complies with voting rights laws.

"We did not pack those districts," said elections committee Chairwoman Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake. "We feel confident that they are fair."

The House elections committee is set to vote Friday on advancing the redistricting plan for that chamber.

Outnumbered Democrats on Thursday presented proposed districts that they said would have 10 more tightly contested districts than the GOP plan based on voting patterns over the past decade.

Republicans haven't released information on the political trends of their proposed districts, saying that wasn't taken into consideration while drawing the maps.

Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said greater competition would mean more voter participation in elections.

"We're going to shut people out of the process," Niezgodski said.

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