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Local GOP Official Happy With New District Maps, Now Headed To Senate

"Indiana State Capitol" by jimmywayne / Creative Commons
Tippecanoe County GOP leadership happy with new district maps moving through legislature.

One local GOP official says they are happy with the new political district maps currently moving through the state legislature. 

Democrats have voiced disappointment with the maps, saying that they dilute Democratic votes -- especially in the case of the new Senate maps, which have separated West Lafayette and Lafayette and paired them with otherwise more rural regions of the state. 

But Tracy Brown, chair of the Tippecanoe County Republican Party, said the maps have done a good job of keeping districts compact.

“When things are more compact and you don’t have things all stretched out it’s easier to provide constituent services,” he said. “What doesn’t work is when you make it confusing and cut up a township. It’s bad enough that counties can’t remain intact but because of the rural urban mix across Indiana it’s difficult to do that.”

Brown said the increased attention on the redistricting process is a good thing. 

“The whole redistricting thing brings the conversation and the process to light,” he said. “People are more engaged now, I’m convinced, more engaged than they have ever been. That bodes well for all of us because you tend to get the best of the best when you have a lot of people interested.”

Steve Klink, a Lafayette-based political consultant, said drawing competitive maps in a conservative state is a hard thing to do. 

“The Senate is a pretty tough cookie to crack when the state is as Republican as it is. I look at 92 counties and only five of them trended Democrat - and yet you want 50 senate districts to somehow be more competitive,” he said. “Onto the rules of whole counties, whole townships, try to square off these districts instead of having a long meandering district. I think the Senate did a marvelous job.”

Klink said that ultimately residents gerrymander themselves.

“The districts lean Republican but there are 11 and really 12 senate districts across the state that are in play for Democrats, whereas county-wide there are only five,” he said. 

Chris Warshaw is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and has provided analysis of the maps for the voter advocacy group, Women4Change Indiana. He said the Senate maps in particular would allow the Republicans to win about 56% of the vote and take 75% of the seats. 

“One of the things my research has shown is when the legislature is biased in a conservative direction, so too are the policies,” he said. “It’s going to mean the policies coming out of the government in Indiana are going to be systematically skewed in a conservative direction.”

Warshaw said when the state maps are less competitive, it becomes harder to hold politicians accountable. 

And system-wide, Warshaw said the Indiana maps aren’t making districts redder across the board. 

“It’s not that the maps system-wide are creating lots of safe Republican districts. Instead it’s creating lots of districts that are 60-40 Republican or 55-45. That’s actually how you skew a map your direction at the statewide level,” he said. “From the statewide level that’s just as concerning. From the point of view of the quality of our democracy that’s really what we should be concerned about: bias at the government wide level.”


Klink, when asked if the new districts might push someone like Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) towards more conservative policies, said that seemed unlikely. 

“He’s still going to fight for Purdue,” he said. “He’s still going to fight for West Lafayette schools. No, you’re not going to see a change in values.”

The new maps passed out of the state House Thursday and now head to the Senate.