By Jim Ellis
Sept. 17, 2021 — The Indiana House Republican majority caucus released the state’s first 2021 congressional redistricting map, and it appears to strengthen the party’s 7-2 grip on the Hoosier State federal delegation.
Political data is not readily accessible, but the geographic outline and reaction from at least one former Democratic congressional candidate suggests the biggest change comes in the state’s 5th District. IN-5 is the geographically central seat that had been trending away from being the safe Republican CD we saw during the previous decade’s early period.
Former state representative and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale (D), who lost to freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) by a relatively close open seat 50-46 percent count last November, claims the House Republicans “kneecapped” any Democrat wanting to run in this district for the foreseeable future.
Though the official political data is not available, the Daily Kos Elections team calculated that former President Trump would have carried this new version of the 5th District with a 57-41 percent margin. His victory totals in the present 5th from 2020 and 2016 were 50-48 and 53-41 percent, respectively.
The current 5th District encompasses all or part of eight central Indiana counties including just over 180,000 people from Marion County in the northern Indianapolis suburbs. These are the precincts making the 5th more competitive as they now lean Democratic.
The proposed CD-5, and this released map, are a long way from being adopted through the legislative process; it would see a jettisoning of all of its Marion County population. Instead, the new district would occupy five whole counties north of Indianapolis and the Marion County line in addition to annexing almost all of Howard County.
The district coming into Marion County to replace the residents shed from the 5th is Rep. Greg Pence’s (R-Columbus) 6th District. Instead of moving in a north south direction along the Ohio border as is the current configuration, the proposed IN-6 would move from the Ohio border and enjoin counties to the west all the way into Marion County. The 6th, however, would assume the necessary Marion County population in the southern portion of the Indianapolis metropolitan area instead of the northern territory.
The Marion County precincts formerly in Rep. Spartz’s 5th District would then go to Rep. Andre Carson’s (D-Indianapolis) center city 7th District, which is one of the two solidly Democratic districts on this proposed Indiana congressional map.
The necessary population swings on the current map are not particularly drastic, which relieves the map drawers from having to solve any major geographic or demographic problems.
Both the 1st (Rep. Frank Mrvan; D-Highland/Gary) and 2nd (Rep. Jackie Walorski; R-Elkhart) districts need to gain people — just over 20,000 individuals apiece. Solving this deficit is made easier since adjacent districts 3 (Rep. Jim Banks; R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne) and 4 (Rep. Jim Baird; R-Greencastle) must shed a combined 16,000 people and Rep. Spartz’s 5th CD is forced to release just over 50,000 residents.
Rep. Pence’s 6th District needs to gain 30,000 people, which can come from some of the 5th’s overload, and also Rep. Carson’s 7th, which must shed a little over 33,000 people.
In the southern part of the state, Rep. Larry Bucshon’s (R-Evansville) 8th CD needs to gain about 38,000 residents while adjacent southeastern Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth’s (R-Jeffersonville) 9th District must shed more than 12,000 individuals. The remaining shortfall for the 8th comes in a population swing from the region moving closer to Indianapolis.
This first map configuration is not particularly surprising. From a Republican political perspective, the goal was to strengthen the 5th CD and ensure the remaining six R districts still have adequate numbers of right-of-center voters so the state continues to send seven Republicans to Washington while conceding only two Democratic seats. This first draw accomplishes all of these partisan goals.