Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Observations on the New Maps; Why Marion County Democrats Should Be Pleased With the Marion County House Districts

I have waited to write on the new maps because frankly the political impact of those maps are only a guess to those of who weren't part of the small handful of the people who worked actively in drawing those maps.  Even many legislators are still studying the impact of the changes on their re-election chances.  I have not been able to find on-line the actual amended redistricting bill that lists the counties, townships and precincts in each particular district.  As a result, I'm like everyone else - just eyeballing and making guesses.  Some observations:

Democrats are screaming that the Republicans have engaged in "gerrymandering," i.e. the drawing of districts to favor the GOP.  Every majority party gets accused of this at re-election time and rightfully so because that's exactly what the majority party always does.

Having said that the Democrats' concerns are way overblown.  The fact is, while Republicans can lock down legislative gains through redistricting, it would be difficult to increase the margins substantially more than what they are now.  The Indiana Senate is now 37-13 majority Republican using a map drawn by Republicans.  The Indiana House is 60-40 majority Republican using a map drawn by Democrats.  It is virtually impossible for Republicans to take out the numbers much beyond that because when the GOP tries it would cut the districts too close leaving scores of Republican legislators vulnerable during the inevitable GOP down years.  One bad election and poof the majority is gone.

Indiana is about a 55% majority Republican state.  74% of the state senators are Republican, 60% of the state Representatives are Republican.  What Republicans would try to do with a gerrymander is to create a majority of seats that are close but safe...say 60% to 40%, a 20% cushion.  In the remaining districts you throw as many Democrats as you can into those districts, conceding them by margins of 80% to 20%, for example.  So what the Republicans would be trying to do is spread out their votes in such a way as to have a solid majority in that chamber.  Democrats in the House did the same thing when they drew the map...though it is tougher for the D's to have a solid majority as their overall numbers are less.

It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for Democrats if the Republicans overreach and  create too many majority districts or protects too many incumbents.  If the GOP does that the party will cut the margins too closely.  So let's say you cut the margins on districts from 60-40 to 57-43 to win more overall seats.  Suddenly the elections are a lot more competitive and a good Democrat year throws out slews of Republicans and might even give the party of the donkey an unexpected majority.

Without political data, it's tough to estimate the political impact of the house and senate maps.  Visually I can make some observations:
Proposed State House Map
HOUSE: On the House side, Marion County Democrats should actually be thrilled. Too much attention is placed on the personal slight of District 96 which appears to lump three Democrats together, the Marion County districts appear to be very favorable to the Democrats. Bosma's Marion County district goes far outside the county to pick up Republican-leaning Hancock county precincts. Outside of that, there are only two districts on the south side that go outside of Marion County. (A third one does - HD 40 but that one actually comes from Hendricks County and only includes a small sliver of Marion County. So we won't count that district.) The rest of the districts are totally contained within Marion County. Looking at those Marion County districts, the Democrats would appear to be favorites in 86, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99 and 100, while Republicans have the advantage in 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93 and 97. That is a 8-7 split in favor of Republicans of the Marion County House seats (sans the aforementioned District 40). But the good news for Democrats is that they have good shots at every district but 88, 90, 91 and 93, while Republicans have little chance to win back any of the Democratic seats.

In a few years, thee Marion County house delegation could easily be 11-4 in favor of the Democrats. By not taking out the northern Marion County districts to pick up Republican precincts in other counties, the House map is certainly no friend of Marion County Republicans.

Proposed State Senate Map
SENATE: I find it fascinating that Republicans drew a state senate district, currently occupied by Republican Beverly Gard, that stretches from nearly Center Township, Marion County to the Wayne County line.  That's about an hour drive, by interstate, from one part of the district to another.  One wonders if some Indianapolis east side Republicans might take a shot at that district. Senate District 33 and 34 look like the only Democratic senate seats in Marion County. With the exception of Senate District 32 based in solidly Republican Franklin Township, all the other Marion County senate districts go outside of the county to pick up Republican-leaning suburban voters.  I would think Senate District 29, currently occupied by Senator Mike Delph, has been made more Republican.  It takes in a big section of western Wayne and northwestern Pike Townships before picking up precincts in the southeastern Boone County and southwestern Hamilton County.  However, given current demographic trends, this is likely to be a very competitive seat in only a couple elections.

Proposed Congressional Map
CONGRESS:  I never thought I would live to see the day when my hometown of Madison (Jefferson County) would be in the same congressional district (District 6) as Muncie (Delaware County), where I spent most of my college years.  I had to trek from Madison to/from Muncie and the drive took forever, a good two hour trip.  From the furthest areas of District 6, I'm sure the trip could be as much as 3 hours long.

I find it interesting that they chose to divide Southern Indiana (the most lightly populated part of the state) up into three congressional districts. 

It appears that the Republicans are angling to win 7 of the 9 congressional districts (all but District 1 and 7).   Doing so means they've had to cut the numbers in some of the more heavily leaning Republican districts, like the 8th Congressional district in southwest Indiana.  Marion County Republicans are giddy that Andre Carson's district has been drawn more Republican by including the Republican southside of Marion County while excluding some of the northern part that is more Democrat.  Too much is being made of this. The Republican southside is sparsely populated when compared to the north side of Marion County, plus the very north part of Marion County now excluded from the 7th is by no means heavily Democrat.   The district will only be marginally closer.

Me being the cynical political person I am, I could see the Republicans making the 7th District closer in the hopes that the Democrats invest resources to help Andre Carson, thus taking money away from other races.

I may have more observations later once I get more information on district lines.


Had Enough Indy? said...

As a general rule, would redrawing precinct lines follow after the larger districts are determinined -- or are the precincts intact in these renderings?

Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't think you can by changing precinct lines move voters from one district to another. Even if you combine precincts involving voters in more than one legislative district - you have a split precinct and the voters could only the ballot for their particular race.

I think usually when they move precinct lines they don't cross district boundaries.

It would go off the existing precincts. The redistricting bill is an actual bill...listing counties, townships and precincts in particular districts.

Cato said...

Has anyone published the population count for each of the proposed congressional districts?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, not that I'm aware of. I'm not overly concerned with that because that's the one thing D's and R's do really well...districts that are very close in terms of population.

Nicolas Martin said...

Is there anything in the redraw that would give me reason to hope that Ed Delaney could be sent packing?

Erin said...

@Nicholas- I still haven't seen the streets, but from what I've understood John Day and Ed Delaney have both been drawn into district 96- Greg Porter's district. So, I have no idea how that shakes out, but district 86 will, presumably, have a different representative as will district 100.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I erred...HD 96, not 86, is apparently the one with 3 Ds in it. My guess is House District 86 will almost certainly be a Democratic district.