When Indiana’s 150 lawmakers gather in January, their most important tasks will include the writing of a two-year state budget and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
But equally important is the requirement that every 10 years lawmakers redraw the boundary lines for state and federal legislative districts based on shifts in population.
For at least the next two years, all three of these issues, and probably dozens more, are solely in the hands of the Republican Party.
The GOP currently holds every statewide elective office, and the party added to its supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate in this year’s election cycle.
Right now 71 of the 100 members of the Indiana House are Republicans, as are 39 of the 50 senators.
There is an English proverb that states “to the victor go the spoils.”
The “spoils” the Republican Party has secured include the drawing of the district boundaries that will remain in place until 2031.
It’s an interesting process that years ago gave birth to the term “gerrymandering.”
The party in power draws the district lines to make sure that they retain power in the future.
This is normally done by determining where an opposing political party has strengths and then diluting them, with the end result being the retention of political power.
Democrats serving in the legislature reside mostly in Indianapolis, South Bend, Bloomington, West Lafayette and Fort Wayne.
A glaring exception is Rep. Terri Austin of Anderson and Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie, as well as State Sen. Tim Lanane of Anderson.
This past election the Republican Party spent approximately $400,000 on the campaign of Elizabeth Rowray in House District 35, which undoubtedly contributed to the defeat of Democrat Melanie Wright.
So what will the new districts look like?
Austin and Lanane’s districts are predominantly in the city of Anderson. There is speculation that Austin’s district will be redrawn to include some of the heavily Republican townships north and east of the city.
Rowray’s district includes most of northern Madison County and extends into Delaware County, but does not include Muncie.
Will GOP power brokers attempt to make Rowray’s district safer in future elections? Probably so.
Mapmakers could slice up Rowray’s district to include more rural areas in Delaware County, her base of support, and trim back the Madison County area.
Thus Austin’s district would pick up GOP townships in this county.
For years, Lanane has spearheaded an effort to establish a redistricting commission consisting of lawmakers from both parties and citizens to draw the maps.
The effort gets little traction since Gov. Eric Holcomb is not a proponent of the concept and believes the current system works well.
Whatever happens when it comes to drawing the new maps, Democrats will cry foul. The Republicans will adopt their maps and the Legislature will remain in GOP control for the next decade.