The population figures released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau provided some welcome news for Indiana residents.
Unlike surrounding states, the population of Indiana increased by a modest 4.7% over the past decade, adding about 300,000 residents to increase the total to 6.8 million.
Indiana’s congressional delegation will remain at nine members of the U.S. House and, of course, the two Senators.
The last time Indiana lost a seat in the U.S. House was 2000. There was concern that the state would lose another House seat this time around as the country’s population center continues to move southwest.
At some point between now and Nov. 15, the Republican supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate will redraw the maps for the congressional and legislative districts.
There will be no independent commission to make recommendations on what the boundaries should look like for the next decade. Indiana Democrats can be assured that they will face an uphill battle over the next 10 years to retain the seats they currently have or gain seats in the future.
But the census figures also should mean that local county and city officials will consider redrawing the district maps for seats on county and city councils.
Last year, Madison County commissioners redrew the boundary lines for the three seats on the board of commissioners to better reflect population trends in the county.
At the time, commissioners said that the old boundaries had 18% of the population in the North District, 58% in the Middle District and 24% in the South District.
The new maps drawn by an outside consultant now has the districts each with about 33% of the county’s population.
The decision to redraw the maps was admirable but should have waited until the 2020 census figures were released this year. Instead, the timing of the redrawing made it appear politically motivated for the advantage of incumbents.
Projections show that Madison County has had a population decline of 1.6% over the past decade to 129,561 residents. That is a slower rate of decline than in previous census data.
When the figures for 2020 are announced, Anderson’s population is expected to decline by 2.7%, Elwood by 2.5% and Alexandria by 3.5%. Pendleton’s population is climbing by an estimated 2.6% and Lapel by 1.7%.
The district lines for seats on the Madison County Council and the three city councils in the county have not changed for decades. Those districts should be redrawn before the 2022 and 2023 election cycles.
Madison County can lead the way for the state by adopting resolutions or ordinances by the impacted councils to allow local residents greater input into the map making via a bipartisan committee.
Will the councils decide to stand pat for the next decade? Only time will tell.