On Monday, October 4, Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law the proposed 2021 redistricting maps for the State of Indiana. In a prepared statement, Holcomb thanked “both the House and Senate for faithfully following through in an orderly and transparent way,” adding “a special thanks to every Hoosier who participated in the process by sharing their local perspective and input.” Critics reacted very differently, decrying both the process—as rushed and secretive—and the result—an unfair dilution of minority and urban voter strength. Ultimately, whatever the validity of either of these statements, the 2021 maps do ensure one thing: solid incumbent protection and a continued advantage to the current party in power in the Indianapolis statehouse. The following considers the process that played out in Indiana, the criticisms leveled against this process, and its likely results.
Like past iterations of redistricting, the 2021 redistricting process in Indiana could not get underway without data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But as it has affected so many other instances of life in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic caused snags, resulting in a census data delay of more than four months—data that was expected to be released in March ended up with a release date in early August. In a series of five redistricting hearings, held in select locations throughout the state from August 6th to August 11th, stakeholders, voting activists, and interested members of the public disagreed on what should occur as a result of the census data delay. Some of those testifying argued the redistricting process must be slowed down to permit the public an opportunity to review proposed maps and voice their concerns—after all, they would be drawn in just about one month, publicly released, and then go to a vote soon after. Instead, Indiana Republicans noted their intention to quickly advance the maps once they obtained the data, raising their own concerns that further delays could cause problems for county officials preparing for the 2022 election.