Indiana awaits census data, redistricting debate

Unlike a decade ago, when the 2000 census cost Indiana one of its U.S. House seats, the state is expected to hold on to all nine of its congressional districts Tuesday when the U.S. Census Bureau releases new national population data, state lawmakers said.

The survey, which is used to divvy up the nation's 435 House districts, will drive next year's once-a-decade work by Indiana lawmakers to redraw maps of congressional and state legislative districts. Since Republicans now control both chambers of the Legislature, they'll oversee the sometimes daunting task.

Population shifts eliminated the state's 10th U.S. House seat in the 2000 census, but Republican state Sen. Sue Landske said lawmakers were told that Indiana wouldn't lose any of its congressional seats this time.

Landske, chairwoman of the Senate Election Committee, said she expects that redrawing maps for the U.S. House seats, Indiana's 100 state House districts and 50 state Senate seats would proceed much as it did in 2001. Redistricting went relatively smoothly that year, when legislative control was split between Democrats who controlled the Indiana House and Republicans who ruled the Senate, she said.

"I'm sure we won't agree 100 percent of the time, but in the end I believe everybody will be happy with what happens," Landske said.

Lawmakers reconvene Jan. 5. The Census Bureau data on which they'll base their redistricting decisions should come by early February and be publically available online within a week, Landske said. Indiana residents will have far greater access to the census information than in 2001, when the public had to compete for a single computer at the Indiana State Library to access the data.

As the redistricting process proceeds, a series of hearings will be held to update the public on the process, Landske said.

The data being released Tuesday will reveal how the nation must reapportion its 435 U.S. House districts to make them roughly equal in population, based on the new figures.

Matt Kinghorn, a demographer with the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, said the consequences of congressional reapportionment especially affect states that lose House seats because their clout in Congress shrinks as other states gain seats.

"It means that state has a lesser voice in the politics of the country. It's not an abstract concept — it's just not losing one representative, it's losing our citizens. And our businesses and our community organizations have less power to be heard in the politics," he said.

Indiana had 13 U.S. House seats in 1910, but lost one seat each in 1930, 1940, 1980 and 2000 as the nation's population shifted, Kinghorn said.

Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, a member of the House Election Committee, said he'll closely monitor the results of the redistricting efforts to make sure districts aren't reconfigured solely for political reasons.

But he's more concerned about producing new district maps that are competitive — districts that Democrat or Republican candidates have a fair shot at winning — even if that means those reshaped maps have "crazy lines."

"Frankly if you're going to have districts that just don't look like squares but end up being competitive in nature, to me that's OK. It's when we start drawing lines just to make a district more Republican or more Democratic, that's where we run into problems," GiaQuinta said. "If they're going to draw them just for purely political reasons, then it will be very contentious."

Kinghorn said he's eager to compare Indiana's population changes between 2000 and 2010 to shifts seen in surrounding states. But he said he's especially interested in the census data to be released in early 2011 that will detail population changes driven by shifts in age, race, ethnicity and gender.

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