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Indiana Senate panel backs redistricting 'baby step'

An Indiana Senate panel advanced a bill Monday that would set criteria for redrawing electoral districts.

Posted: Jan 22, 2018 3:35 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana Senate panel advanced a bill Monday that would set criteria for redrawing electoral districts. But the measure approved on an 8-0 vote falls far short of a comprehensive redistricting overhaul that good government groups have sought for years.

Senate Elections Committee Chairman Greg Walker acknowledged his bill was a "baby step," though the Columbus Republican said it still moves the conversation forward.

Indiana's legislative and congressional districts are currently drawn to favor Republicans. That's because the Legislature, which oversees the once-in-a-decade effort that comes after the census, is in GOP control. In the past, when Democrats had more power, the maps tilted in their favor.

That's problematic, according to advocates, who argue that such a process allows lawmakers to pick and choose their voters, rather than voters picking and choosing their elected officials. That can lead to voter apathy and a limited turnout on election day, according to advocates.

Walker's bill outlines a series of guidelines. Under the measure, districts should be drawn "to the extent possible" in ways that avoid splitting pockets of voters with common cultural, ethnic, political, or socio economic interests. They should also be drawn compactly and in ways that avoid splitting existing boundaries set by local governments.

There is, however, a provision that allows lawmakers to deviate from the standards when working on the maps, so long as an explanation is given.

Advocates also noted the measure still allows lawmakers to control the process, which they likened to baseball players calling their own games instead of umpires. They are pushing for an independent commission to handle that task.

"We hope there would be some neutral body that would develop the standards and review the maps," said Debbie Asberry of the League of Women Voters of Indianapolis.

A number of lawmakers support a larger overhaul of the redistricting process, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican. Bosma said he remembers what it was like to be in the minority.

Despite support from influential lawmakers, past legislation on the issue has failed to advance. Bosma said many GOP House members were elected as Republicans stormed to power and have never experienced being in the minority.

Still to be seen is how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on several redistricting cases from other states that it's currently considering. That will likely impact how Indiana proceeds.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Cases: 664446

Reported Deaths: 12663
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion909511650
Lake48568884
Allen36004640
Hamilton32182398
St. Joseph30166513
Elkhart25453419
Vanderburgh21300382
Tippecanoe20143203
Johnson16407361
Porter16042276
Hendricks15877300
Clark12018181
Madison11776319
Vigo11660231
Monroe10379163
Delaware9870179
LaPorte9802198
Howard9083199
Kosciusko8582111
Bartholomew7488147
Warrick7438151
Hancock7428133
Floyd7243170
Wayne6648192
Grant6446157
Boone610989
Morgan6106126
Dubois5925112
Dearborn549969
Cass547299
Marshall5439105
Henry542594
Noble510578
Jackson465167
Shelby461991
Lawrence4193113
Harrison402564
Gibson402083
Clinton396753
Montgomery389683
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350237
Huntington347377
Steuben339555
Wabash332676
Putnam331260
Ripley327862
Adams324749
Jasper318143
White297952
Jefferson295874
Daviess285696
Fayette272156
Decatur271188
Greene262080
Posey261431
Wells258675
Scott251350
LaGrange241870
Clay241444
Randolph225676
Spencer218930
Jennings216344
Washington212827
Sullivan203639
Fountain202142
Starke189051
Owen183253
Fulton179837
Jay178528
Carroll176619
Perry173736
Orange171250
Rush165322
Vermillion161442
Franklin159635
Tipton148441
Parke140016
Pike128233
Blackford120727
Pulaski107344
Newton96632
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Benton92213
Crawford91713
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