Outnumbered Democrats in the Indiana House argued Wednesday that the new election districts proposed by Republicans would lead to fewer competitive races and create more solidly GOP seats.
House Democrats said their review of the proposed districts found 14 districts closely divided politically for the 100 House seats — down from the current 24 — and that 10 of the 12 districts drawn without incumbents are heavily Republican.
Several people who testified during a House elections committee hearing Wednesday asked that the public have more time to study and comment on the new districts that were released Monday.
Indianapolis resident Robin Olds said the redistricting maps made public were too small for her to figure out which legislative district she would live in.
Mooresville town council President George Watkins said he was worried that few people knew about the proposals, such as having the suburban Indianapolis community being split between two House districts.
"That is a concern for the four or five or six citizens of Mooresville that are aware of it — and those are the ones I contacted myself last night," Watkins said.
Republicans who control the Legislature plan to advance the redistricting plan from the House and Senate elections committees this week and have new maps for the state's nine congressional, 50 state Senate and 100 state House districts before the April 29 adjournment deadline.
Rep. John Bartlett of Indianapolis, the top Democrat on the House election committee, said he was concerned about the lack of politically competitive legislative districts and what appeared to be "packing" of minorities into relatively few districts.
"We had people say they don't want legislators picking their voters, they want the voters to pick their legislators," Bartlett said. "That's a major concern for us."
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said he didn't know how the new districts might influence election results for the House, which has a 60-40 GOP majority under maps drawn by Democrats 10 years ago.
"It's not my focus to know what the political makeups of the districts are," Bosma said. "Our focus is to drawn commonsense districts."
Democrats say their analysis of the GOP-proposed districts for the state Senate show that at most 17 of the 50 districts having enough Democratic voting strength to match their party's statewide average in recent elections. Republicans now have a commanding 37-13 majority in the Senate, which they've controlled since the mid-1970s.
Members of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was formed by several advocacy groups, gave the proposed maps positive reviews for better compactness and keeping more counties and cities together than under current districts.
But they said the quickness that legislators are moving the plan would prevent them from being able to know how competitive those districts might be since little political information was available yet.
"The average person just isn't engaged enough to look at a map and say 'yeah, that's good for me' or not," said Julia Vaughn, policy director for the government watchdog group Common Cause/Indiana.