The Indiana House on Thursday voted 67-31, mostly along party lines, to approve the new state legislative and congressional election district maps, likely ensuring Republicans will keep their supermajority in the Legislature.
Debate on the House floor Thursday mostly came from Democrats, who have argued since last week that the legislative maps are not fairly drawn to represent how the public votes, giving Republicans an advantage in elections.
Almost all of the Democrats that spoke on the House floor pointed to a study commissioned by the political group Women4Change that found Republicans typically receive 56% of the overall vote, but would likely win 69 of the 100 Indiana House seats under the proposed maps.
“It’s not just about giving you an advantage in the next election; it’s about creating a lock on the next election,” said. Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.
Pierce also criticized the proposed Senate map that was released Tuesday and amended in the legislation with the rest of the maps the next day. He said the map favors Republicans and is “borderline mean-spirited.”
Democrats attempted to amend a completely new House map into the bill Wednesday, but that was voted down.
The map was independently drawn by an Indiana citizen as part of the voting rights group All IN for Democracy’s map-drawing contest and would have split the House with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats.
Democrats said that map prioritized creating competitive districts over compactness and keeping communities of interest intact, which were priorities of the Republican maps.
Republicans defended the maps on the House floor Thursday. Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, who was chair of the House Elections Committee, listed specific requests from the public that Republicans used for drawing compact districts and keeping communities of interests together.
“The truth is, people don’t want districts that look like salamanders,” Wesco said.
One Republican, Rep. Jeff Ellington of Bloomington, spoke against the proposed maps because of how his district, House District 62, was drawn. He said the proposed map eliminates the community of interest in the Interstate 69 corridor between Bloomington and Crane.
Political projections say Ellington’s district is one GOP-held district that could flip the next election under the proposed House maps.
Ellington, Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, and Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Patoka, joined Democrats in voting against the legislation with the maps.
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, defended the maps as fair to both parties, citing the fact that a high number of county elected officials are Republicans. He said, “we can pick the statistics we want to use to support our arguments,” referring to the statistic that Republicans typically win 56% of votes statewide.
“I’ll stand up and defend these maps all day long,” Huston said.
Legislative procedures on the Senate side will begin next week with the Senate Committee on Elections public hearing set for 9 a.m. on Monday.