Drafts of the state’s proposed new congressional and House district maps released Tuesday by Republicans aren’t likely to make a sizable changes in Indiana’s political landscape.
The release kicks off the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political maps, which under state law, is done by the Legislature.
In the proposed congressional maps, based on historical election results, Indiana is likely to maintain its seven Republican-held seats and the two Democrat-held seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Most notably, Marion County shifted north on the congressional map, better securing the seat of Republican U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, whose district in Hamilton County would no longer encompass the Democrat-leaning portion of Indianapolis.
Spartz finished behind her opponent in Marion County in last year’s election even as she won by an overall 50%-46% margin over Democratic candidate Christina Hale.
In another shift in central Indiana, all of Johnson County was moved from U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth’s district into Rep. Greg Pence’s. Pence also obtained the southern townships in Marion County in the proposed map. Both Hollingsworth and Pence are Republicans.
At the state level, notable House district shifts were made around Hamilton County and in in the northern Marion County suburbs.
The district of House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, was shifted from southeast Hamilton County into the northern section of the county.
Huston faced a closer-than-expected election last fall, winning 56% of the vote against Democratic candidate Aimee Rivera Cole. Huston’s district in the new proposed House map stretches his district into areas that traditionally lean more Republican.
On the south side of Indianapolis, Republican Rep. John Jacob’s district has been shifted out of traditionally Republican-held Johnson County and further north into Marion County, taking Beech Grove. He narrowly took his primary last year and won Marion County by a smaller margin than he did in Johnson County.
Jacob is known for his radically conservative beliefs and going against the traditional Republican Party at the Statehouse. He said publicly at a town hall meeting in his district in June and told IBJ in July he thought he was in the line of fire to be ousted through redistricting.
Indiana House GOP leadership said the maps follow all constitutional requirements, meet with the population shifts across the state, and are “substantially comparable to or better than the maps passed in 2011.” Republicans have full control Indiana’s redistricting process through their supermajority in the state Legislature.
They said communities of interest were generally kept together, and the proposed congressional map keeps 84 of Indiana’s 92 counties whole, and includes a near equal deviation from the ideal population of about 753,000 each.
“These maps follow all statutory and constitutional requirements and reflect the population trends over the last 10 years,” Huston said in a written statement. “For the new House maps, Rep. [Greg] Steuerwald took a holistic approach and worked tremendously hard to keep communities of interest together with a focus on compactness.”
Indiana House Democratic Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, of Fort Wayne, released a statement Tuesday, saying he did not trust House Republicans’ process for redrawing the maps. He pointed to the House GOP hire of D.C. attorney Jason Torchinsky, a senior adviser and general counsel to the National Republican Redistricting Trust, to serve as legal counsel.
“Indiana House Democrats continue to analyze the House Republicans’ redistricting plan,” GiaQuinta said. “While we don’t know everything about these newly drawn districts, we do know that any map drawn with the assistance of high-priced D.C. consultants, using advanced political and consumer data points, will benefit the Indiana GOP—not Hoosier voters.”
The proposed maps could still change as they go through the legislative process at the Statehouse. The House Elections Committee will take public comment on the maps Wednesday at 1 p.m. and Thursday at 10 a.m. in the House Chamber before moving the proposals through committee.
The full House will reconvene next week to offer amendments and vote on the maps. Indiana Senate Republicans’ proposed maps will also be released next week ,on Sept. 21.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.