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Indiana State Democrats Raise Alarm On New District Maps

Rep. Campbell warns that Indiana's new district maps aren't competitive (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Local Democratic state representatives continued to raise the alarm Monday about new political district maps moving through the state legislature. 

An analysis of those maps has found that they are some of the most gerrymandered in the entire country. Republicans could win 56% of the vote and hold 70% of the seats.

At a press conference, Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) said political gerrymandering - packing voters together to make districts less competitive - is the state’s most important issue. 

“I think this is the most important issue that’s happening today,” she said. “Any issue that’s important to you in the state of Indiana comes back to this.”

Indiana’s previous congressional map saw seven seats go to Republicans and two towards Democrats. The latest version is also expected to be a 7-2 map. 

Campbell and others have pointed to congressional District 5 as one example of a district that has been redrawn to lean more Republican since the maps were last drawn in 2011. 

Previously, the fifth district included parts of Marion County. In 2020 Republican Victoria Spartz beat Democrat Christina Hale by just over four points and nearly 17,000 votes. Experts say as it’s drawn now, with lines that follow the border between Marion and Hamilton counties, it’s likely to stay safely Republican. 

“I think you can just look at District 5, the congressional district,” Campbell said. “Going from a 4% republican lead to a 16% expected outcome for the next election.”

Lawmakers like Cambell say less competitive districts lead to fewer voters turning out and lawmakers who cater to the more extreme voices in their respective parties.

Other Democrats, including Rep. Sheila Klinker (D-Lafayette), acknowledged that the state leans Republican regardless of how fairly the maps are drawn. But, she said, the redistricting process should be more open to the public. 

“You hear that word transparency over and over again,” she said. “I agree with that. The process should be open.”

And, Klinker said, she’s hopeful that a younger generation may be more open to messages from Indiana Democrats. 

“I find in talking to the students at Purdue that many of them who maybe have voted with their parents in the Republican party are willing to listen and vote for a Democrat,” she said. “I find it positive that they are open-minded.”

Joe Mackey, a Democrat who ran for Indiana’s fourth congressional district and lost, said more competitive districts will help politicians - and voters - engage. 

“If you are in a very red district today and you are a Republican in office and suddenly your district is now purple you must go out and engage the public,” he said. “Politicians running for Congress are banking on the straight party ticket and don’t feel obligated to engage in debate, in the discussion. That’s what partisan gerrymandering does. It creates the straight party ticket and low voter turnout.”

Republican lawmakers have argued that the district maps are drawn to be compact, and Democrats tend to live close together. 

A vote on the maps is expected in the statehouse later this week.