The second virtual public hearing of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission focused Wednesday evening on the state’s 5th Congressional District, a mix of rural, urban and suburban with communities and interests so diverse that some participants questioned how they all could be represented.
The commission, a nine-member “multipartisan” citizens group formed to advise and offer an alternative to the upcoming redrawing of congressional and legislative district lines by the Indiana General Assembly, is holding a series of nine public hearings, all held virtually due to public health concerns and organized by congressional district.
Indiana’s 5th extends from the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood in Indianapolis through Hamilton and Tipton counties all the way north to Marion. The commission repeatedly heard testimony from Indianapolis participants who said they belonged instead in the 7th Congressional District, which represents most of the state’s largest city and its increasingly Democratic-leaning constituents.
“The Republicans in Hamilton and Tipton counties can overpower the small corner of Marion County that’s in that district,” said John Marquis of Indianapolis, referring to the 5th.
Sabrina Glidden of rural Blackford County said she also felt overlooked in a district that includes big cities and fast-growing suburban areas like Fishers in Hamilton County.
“Fishers is in a higher tax bracket,” she said. “We’re in the middle of cornfields. Those people are rich people to us.”
Dee Thornton, a Democrat who has run unsuccessfully for Congress in the past two elections, said it’s difficult as well to be a candidate in a district that includes all or part of eight counties, each with its own set of rules and interests.
“It’s a nightmare to try to get your arms around all the rules and the groups you must interact with,” she said.
In describing the redistricting process to the hearing’s participants, Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said one of the criteria is to unite rather than separate “communities of interest.”
“When you have clashing communities of interest,” she said, “you create winners and losers.”
The commission’s next virtual public hearing, centering on the 1st Congressional District in northwestern Indiana, will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) on Saturday, March 6. — The Indiana Citizen