Indiana Senate Republicans rejected all proposed changes to their redistricting map Thursday that had been prompted by public concerns.
Amendments offered by Democrats would have kept major Indiana cities more whole in the Senate map. Evansville would’ve been its own district, rather than split in half. West Lafayette and Lafayette would’ve been kept together, rather than separated into two, largely rural districts. A sliver of a predominantly rural district would’ve been removed from Marion County. And Fort Wayne, currently splintered into four districts, would become largely contained in just two.
Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), debating that last proposal, objected to reducing the number of lawmakers representing the city.
“Why would you want to reduce the influence of the city of Fort Wayne in the Indiana Senate?” Koch said.
Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said it’s Republicans who do that by including urban voters in largely rural districts that stretch multiple counties away.
“You’ve kept the south side and the people of Fort Wayne from having a voice in this legislative body for things that they think are better for them, their families, their loved ones," Taylor said. "And that’s not right.”
Under Koch's logic, House Republicans reduced the influence of Fort Wayne in the House redistricting map. House GOP map drawers said they were responding to voters who wanted to see the state's second largest city kept more intact.
All those Democratic proposals were rejected along party lines.
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Indiana Senate Republicans also blocked every effort by Democrats to make Indiana’s redistricting maps more competitive – or fundamentally change the way the maps are drawn.
Democrats proposed redistricting maps drawn this year by citizens as part of an independent redistricting commission. They also offered an amendment that would’ve required the maps be drawn by an independent body in the next round of redistricting, in 2031.
Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) said it’s about fundamental fairness.
“I don’t know what we call it other than conflict of interest when elected officials influence the drawing of their own maps,” Qaddoura said.
Koch, the chief architect of the Senate Republican map, rejected the idea that lawmakers drawing district maps is a conflict of interest.
“You know, that decision was made by the framers of the [Indiana] Constitution,” Koch said.
Koch also argued that the proposed maps drawn by citizens had legal flaws.