The following is written by Alan Mills, a member of the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation board of directors, as an update to his analysis, “Why racial justice requires fair maps,’’ published on August 31, 2021.
Sept. 29, 2021
A month has passed since I shared some thoughts on the once-a-decade redistricting process and its implications for communities of color in Indiana.
Much has happened in the Indiana General Assembly since then, and I’m sorry to report that not much of it is encouraging.
On Sept. 14, Indiana House Republicans released their redrawing of the state’s nine congressional and 100 Indiana House districts. Indiana Senate Republicans followed a week later with their redrawing of the state’s 50 Senate districts.
The timing of the maps’ release left little opportunity for the public to assess their impact before the Indiana General Assembly began its process of enacting them. I believe that was reflected in the attendance at legislative hearings on Sept. 15, Sept. 16, and Sept. 27, all held at the Statehouse during daytime hours that would conflict with most work schedules.
I was particularly concerned to learn that so few from Indiana’s minority communities testified, because the impact of these new congressional and legislative maps might be felt most by Indiana’s non-white population – which the 2020 census shows to be growing at a significantly faster pace than the white population. This growing Hoosier population deserves representation from legislators who won’t ignore critical concerns such as funding for better education for their children, food insecurity, and higher quality and more affordable housing.
But these maps ignore Indiana’s changing demographics. A new, independent study from George Washington University professor Christopher Warshaw found the new ones to be just as gerrymandered as the old ones, and likely to result in disproportionate representation for Indiana’s shrinking rural population at the expense of its growing suburban and urban communities.
Asked about the effect of the redrawn maps on Indiana’s minority communities, Warshaw replied, “I see no evidence that that was even taken into account … At the end of the day, that’s going to worsen representation for racial minorities.’’
More recent findings shared by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights are even more concerning. At a legislative hearing on Monday, one of their attorneys delivered the following testimony: “A preliminary analysis suggests that there are multiple examples where communities of color have been ‘cracked,’ breaking our communities apart into multiple House or Senate districts. The legislature must redraw such districts to keep communities of color together, or they risk violating the federal Voting Rights Act.”
In addition to proposed House districts that have been cracked, others show evidence of “packing,’’ or consolidating minorities into as few districts as possible and thus keeping the legislators they elect to an absolute minimum. Eleven districts – four in Lake County, six in Marion County and one in Allen County –have a minority population of more than 50%; four of those–one in Lake County and three in Marion County – have a minority population of more than 70%.
On Tuesday morning, Republicans on the Senate Elections Committee amended their legislation to further redraw eight Senate districts in Marion County – changes they said resulted in part from input from Senate Democrats and concern over compliance with the Voting Rights Act. But the changes do not affect Senate District 28, which is predominantly in rural Hancock and Shelby counties but includes a tacked-on portion of the Indianapolis eastside so small it marginalizes its Democratic and minority residents.
Nor did Tuesday’s changes address concerns about the proposed redrawing of Senate district lines in other counties with significant minority populations that appear likely to continue to have no non-white Senators. Is there any other reason why Fort Wayne, with a 35% minority population, is cracked into four Senate districts, or Evansville, with a 25% minority population, into two?
While defending the House maps, the author of the redistricting legislation, Rep. Greg Steuerwald, said the 2011 redistricting created five majority minority House districts which the 2021 map maintained, which he asserted were required by the Voting Rights Act.
However, on the Senate side, Sen. Eric Koch—while explaining the need to make further changes to the Marion County Senate districts through a committee amendment—said Senate Republicans consulted an academic who told him the Voting Rights Act doesn’t require majority minority Senate districts. How can both positions be accurate? This is the sleight of hand you pull when you are trying to avoid a charge of racial gerrymandering.
Make no mistake, both the House and Senate maps—drawn in secret by six white males–continue to use the cynical techniques of packing, cracking and tacking to perpetuate the existing supermajorities.
Mark my words, without major changes in the maps before enactment, the legislators elected in 2022 will look remarkably similar to those elected in 2012, notwithstanding the increase in the number of Hoosiers of color over the last decade. Indiana is less rural and less white, but the composition of the Indiana General Assembly likely won’t be.
If Hoosiers—especially Hoosiers of color—needed any further evidence of the need to wrest total control of map-drawing from those whose only goal is to perpetuate their power, we just received it.
Alan Mills is a prominent Indianapolis attorney, whose many honors, awards and appointments have included chairing the Indiana State Election Board. The views expressed here are his own.