Could the route toward increasing the competitiveness of Indiana elections and boosting voter participation turn on reforming how legislative district boundaries are drawn? A special 12-member study committee convened Thursday at the Statehouse to begin a two-year investigation into Indiana’s redistricting process. Currently, the General Assembly draws the maps for U.S. House, Indiana House and Indiana Senate districts every 10 years, after the U.S census tallies the state’s population. The only requirements for each district are that all parts of it be contiguous and that it be nearly equal in population to every other district of its type. Critics of legislative redistricting say those conditions provide lawmakers a significant opportunity to manipulate district lines in ways that advantage themselves or their political party.
For example, after the Republican-controlled Legislature drew new maps in 2011, the GOP grew its 60-member House majority to a 69-member supermajority in the 2012 elections. Republicans also gained a U.S. House seat in 2012.
Senate Republicans picked up three new members in the two election cycles following the 2011 redistricting and now control 40 of 50 Senate seats, or 80 percent.