Indiana Senate Democrats seek public input on redistricting in South Bend

Sep 24, 2021

(From left to right) Indiana Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend), Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie), Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) and Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) sought public input on redistricting in South Bend on Friday, Sept. 24.
Credit Gemma DiCarlo/WVPE

In the midst of a redistricting process they say has been “closed off and restrictive,” Indiana Senate Democrats are holding a series of public input sessions across the state. 

“Hoosiers want a fair, transparent and open process,” State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) said Friday. “Unfortunately, that’s not been the case. It’s been opaque, to say the least.”

 

Democratic lawmakers were in Gary Thursday evening and South Bend Friday to hear public input on the new state Senate map, which was unveiled last week.

 

State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) said the new boundaries dilute the Democratic vote in cities like Fort Wayne and Evansville by “cracking” them into multiple districts. The new map also eliminates one Democratic district and makes another extremely competitive. 

 

Ford said the new boundaries misrepresent the true proportion of Republican to Democratic Hoosier voters and strengthen the Republican supermajority.

 

“We are not a 70/30, 80/20, 90/10 [state] – what these maps make us to be,” Ford said. “We’re much closer than that. I would say – dare I say – 55/45.”

 

Some commenters expressed frustration with the partisan nature of the maps and the redistricting process as a whole. 

 

“We should be mad as hell with these people,” Don Westerhausen – a two-time Democratic candidate for state House – said. “There’s no working with these guys because they don’t have to work with us. So why be so nice?”

 

But others – like Cheryl Ashe – were more interested in what comes next.

 

“Realistically, what the Republicans have drawn is what’s going to be,” she said. “So I’m really interested in what is the game plan for the next 10 years?”

 

Ford said Democratic lawmakers will be proposing changes to the maps in the coming weeks that allow them to gain just enough seats in the legislature to break the Republican supermajority.

 

“If we had more folks, we could then force them to have a conversation with us,” he said. “Right now, they don’t even do that.”

 

The Indiana Senate will hold a public hearing on its redistricting map at 9 a.m. Monday at the Statehouse. The hearing will be broadcast, but public comment will only be accepted in-person. 

 

Senate Democrats will hold their final public input session at 6 p.m. Monday at the Monroe County Public Library – 303 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN.

 

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

 

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.