There are calls for more engagement as new Indianapolis City-County Council district maps move closer to being finalized.
The council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee approved the new redistricting maps at a meeting earlier this week. Every 10 years the county is required to redraw maps based on new census data.
The new maps come after a series of public engagement meetings across the county.
The council employed a consulting company, Engaging Solutions, to conduct a series of meetings and gather public input in the process. Nine meetings were held in each township and one virtual meeting. Only about 150 residents attended meetings.
City-County Council staff used the public input to divide new districts as evenly as possible. Council CFO Brandon Herget said the new maps seek to divide Indianapolis’ 977,000 residents to divide between 25 districts.
“So when you’re planning with puzzle pieces that are that big, you’re trying your hardest to get that target number of 39,088. It is not actually possible,” Herget said.
By law, the maps need to account for new precinct boundaries, equalize population and follow man made and natural boundaries. Census data shows Marion County gained more than 70,000 people, nearing 1 million in population at 977,000. The area is also more diverse, with the number of Black, Asian and Hispanic populations up across the county.
The council currently has a Democratic supermajority of 20 to 5. The new maps could actually increase the number of Republican seats along the southern border of the county.
One vote against the map was Republican Councilor Michael Paul Hart. He questioned the harm in adding more time to work on the most equitable maps. Four other Republicans voted for the new maps that could benefit their party.
Council President Vop Osili said the process could go on for years and still never please everyone.
"Never get to the satisfaction of 977,000 individuals," Osili said.
The other vote against the maps was longtime Democrat Monroe Gray. Gray has been outspoken against some county Democrats in recent months around a conflict of interest issue. The new maps draw Gray and fellow Democrat Keith Potts into the same district.
A separate map drawn by an independent citizens commission was not considered by the council. Mat Davis, a nonpartisan member of that group, said he hopes the process can become more inclusive.
“I wanted to make sure that one some level we can consider opening up the process to more people driven, empowered processes and other maps so it can inform the next ten years,” Davis said.
The commission led by Common Cause Indiana, a voting advocacy group, called on councilors to consider independently drawn maps. Common Cause Indiana Policy Director Julia Vaugn said in a written statement that they were disappointed. “That these new districts are being rushed through the process without adequate opportunities for the public to learn about them and offer their opinions,” Vaughn said.
The City-County Council is ultimately responsible for the passage of new local maps. The proposal moves to the full council for a vote next month.
The past two redistricting go-arounds in Marion County have ended up in the Indiana State Supreme court.