Despite GOP controls over Indiana redistricting, citizens group will watchdog process

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January 13, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: As Indiana lawmakers enter the 2011 session with control of both houses of the General Assembly and the redistricting process, a citizens watchdog group will be putting pressure on lawmakers to make Indiana's legislative and congressional districts more competitive.[1]

In December of 2010, a coalition of citizen groups formed the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission to oversee the redistricting process in the Hoosier State. The group consists of organizations including Common Cause of Indiana, AARP Indiana, the Indiana League of Women Voters, and the Indiana Center for Politics at Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. The group will plan to hold a series of public hearings on redistricting in addition to having a map-drawing contest for college students to draw their idea districts. The goal of the commission is to make Indiana's elections more competitive and eliminate gerrymandered districts. In 2010, 17 out of 100 State House candidates were unopposed, while 5 out of 25 State Senate candidates were without opposition. The Commission thinks that a large number of smaller cities split into multiple legislative districts across the state is a reason for gerrymandering in Indiana.[1]

During the 2010 midterm election, Indiana Republicans won control of six out of the nine congressional districts in the Hoosier State. When the Census figures were released on December 21, 2010, Indiana retained its current allotment of nine congressional districts.[2] This has raised concern within the state's Democrats that most congressional districts could be drawn to benefit Republicans in the next decade. One redistricting strategy could be that Southern Indiana could be kept under GOP control while Northwest Indiana near the Illinois border could be made more competitive. Democrats traditionally perform well near South Bend and Michigan City which is in Northwest Indiana.[3]

Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) was named in November of 2010 by House Speaker Brian Bosma as the Chairman of the Redistricting Committee. Koch said after he was appointed: “ I will be designing a process that will maximize the opportunity for citizen participation through public hearings. My goal is to draw maps that meet all legal and Constitutional requirements.” The Representative said that he is looking forward to full cooperation with Senate Redistricting Committee Chairwoman Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) to fulfill their obligations of drawing the lines. state election officials are expecting the process to move fast with Republicans in control.[4][5]

The deadline for the General Assembly to have a redistricting plan in place is April 29, 2011.

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