Republican-drawn maps for new Indiana House and congressional districts advanced to the full House on Friday despite arguments from Democrats that they are aimed at ensuring GOP election dominance.
The House elections committee voted 8-5 along party lines in favor of the proposals after Republicans revised the lines for several scattered state House districts from what they had proposed Monday.
Democrats said the proposed districts will reduce the number of closely contested House districts and that some appear drawn specifically to help Republican candidates who lost elections last year.
Republicans maintain that the districts were drawn without regard to political considerations but with the goal of compactness and keeping cities and counties together.
Committee Chairman Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said the Republican proposal was made up of commonsense districts that better represented the state than those approved in 2001 when Democrats controlled the House.
"They make far more sense in terms of good government and effective organization than the maps adopted 10 years ago," Koch said.
Democrats maintain that the Republican proposal leaves 14 districts closely divided politically for the 100 House seats — down from the current 24 — and that 10 districts drawn without incumbents are heavily Republican.
"I haven't heard anyone say we're wrong," said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis.
The drawing of new congressional and legislative districts, which would take effect with the 2012 elections, is done every 10 years based on new census information.
DeLaney mocked Republican leaders for saying that they didn't know how slanted the new districts would be in their favor.
"Are you going to say the prospect of 62 predominantly Republican districts just fell out of the sky?" DeLaney said. "I don't think any citizen believes that."
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said any political benefit his party gains from redistricting comes from population growth in predominantly Republican areas and population losses in Democratic-leaning cities.
"You don't have to be a demographer or political science major to know that you're going to see that kind of result with change in the map," Bosma said.
Democrats asked that the legislative redistricting plan be presented at public hearings around the state and then voted on in November, when the legislators convene their annual organization day. But Republicans expect the House to vote next week on the redistricting plans and for them to receive final approval before the Legislature's April 29 deadline to adjourn.
The House committee also advanced the GOP proposal for the state's nine congressional districts. Republicans now hold six of those seats and the redistricting plan puts more Republican areas into the northern Indiana district of Democrat Joe Donnelly, who narrowly won re-election last year.
Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said he believed having more competitive districts would be better for the state because it would lead to fewer entrenched incumbents
"You're going to have fewer people willing to run when they have about no chance to win," he said.