House approved redistricting maps on first reading

·2 min read

Sep. 20—INDIANAPOLIS — The House and congressional district maps moved through the House chamber on first reading, with 63 representatives voting to move the maps to second reading against 30 "no" votes.

The maps are combined in one bill, HB 1581, and had passed through the House Elections and Apportionment committee Monday morning on a 9-4 party-line vote.

Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, the committee chair, served as one of three map makers along with House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and bill author Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon. They unveiled maps last Tuesday and heard two days of testimony.

The committee made minor map amendments Monday to further equalize populations between congressional districts and avoid splitting a Fort Wayne apartment complex.

Wesco, in the committee hearing, discussed the focus was to keep communities of interest together and avoid splitting municipalities. District lines in Fort Wayne and Allen County changed significantly, creating a new district that likely will lean Democratic.

"(Our maps) seek to make Congressional District 6 more compact, which was requested at the hearing in Anderson," Wesco said. "There were specific complaints about the congressional district running all the way from (Delaware) County to the (Ohio) River. We now have just two congressional district bordering the Ohio River versus three."

The new maps created six House districts with two Republican incumbents and six House districts with no sitting representatives, two of which lean Democratic.

But Democrats took issue with the changes to Congressional Districts 5, 6 and 7, which they claim changed to protect Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz in the 5th District, who won by a slim margin in 2020 over Democrat Christina Hale.

Democratic strongholds in northern Marion County were redistributed from the 5th District to the 7th District, which covers two-thirds of Marion County. The remaining third of Marion County in the proposed maps belongs to the 6th District, another Republican district representing rural east-central Indiana.

Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, asked why map makers didn't consider changing the boundaries between the 5th, 6th and 7th districts after public testimony last week. Democrats and Republicans alike took issue with the changes, saying it split a Jewish voting bloc and also mixed rural and urban voters in the 6th District.

"As part of the public hearings last week, (a constituent) thought certain communities belonged together — such as Kokomo, Muncie and Anderson," Wesco said in response. "So I do believe that we considered and listened to the testimony last week."

Senators will unveil Senate maps Tuesday, and the House will vote to include the maps into HB 1581 on Wednesday, before any public testimony takes place. This move allows leaders to finish maps by Oct. 1.

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