|WTLC's Amos Brown|
A subject among Amos' recent tweets caught my eye. He tweeted today that Mayor Ballard approved the hiring of a Republican redistricting consultant with the apparent purpose of having the lame duck Republican majority on the council pass a new council map that favors the GOP.
Well, that might be the plan, but it sure ain't going to work. Here's why. Republicans currently have a 13-12 majority among the districts that were drawn by the Indiana Supreme Court after a legal dispute. If you look at those 25 council districts, only one Republican council district in the northern six townships has at least a 60% GOP majority. That district is Ginny Cain's on the far northeast side of the county. The rest are less than 60%, and three Republican councilors have districts (McQuillen, Scales and McHenry's) with Democratic majorities.
Besides Cain's, the other solidly Republican districts (22, 23, 24, and 25) are all in the southern most townships of Franklin, Perry and Decatur. So, again, only five districts have Republican majorities of over 60%. Eight of the 13 Republican councilors are in competitive districts. (defined as having a baseline of less than 60% Republican.)
Meanwhile the Democrats currently only have one district, Dane Mahern's, a district located on the near southside, which has a narrow Republican majority. The other districts held by Democrats are all over 60%. Thus only one of 12 Democratic district councilors is in a competitive district.
The strategy behind redistricting is that you spread out your votes so that you have close but safe wins in a majority of districts, while you create large majorities for the opposition party in a minority of districts. The danger for the party doing the redistricting is that if it cuts the baseline too closely in those majority districts, then in a bad election year that party will find itself losing scores of seats and suddenly in the minority. At that point, the new majority party might even choose to redistrict again.
To make the council districts more favorable, the strategy would be to take the heavy Republican districts and spread out the vote so they can win more districts. The problem is geography and the city's voting patterns. The only heavy Republican districts are in the far southern part of the county. (Even Cain's district on the far northeast side is only a few percent above falling below the 60% mark so you couldn't really take many GOP votes from it.) What are Republicans going to do...draw very narrow, linear districts that go from the northern part of the county into the far southern township to pick up Republican votes? Putting northern Washington Township in a district with Southport is probably not going to pass legal muster.
The fact is the current map is about as good as it gets for the GOP. There are scores of close Republican districts while the Democratic voters are packed into 11 of the 12 districts they won in 2007.
Then you have the problem of the at-large districts. In 2008, the countywide baseline vote favored Democrats by 20%. In 2010, a good Republican year, it was down to 10%. It's unlikely to be that low for several years to come. Almost certainly the Democrats will go 4-0 in these at-large seats in most of this decade's elections. There is nothing redistricting can do to change that. Only the Indiana General Assembly can eliminate the at-large districts on the Indianapolis City-County Council.
Good luck with that highly paid GOP redistricting consultant. I could have saved them some money. For a cold beer, I would have given them the advice that a Republican council district majority map is impossible given Indianapolis' geography and voting patterns.
UPDATE: In a recent twitter feed, Amos Brown identified the redistricting consultant hired by the City as none other than Hamilton County resident and Marion County Township Chairman David Brooks. Amos challenges it as possibly a conflict of interest as Brook's wife, Susan Brooks, is a candidate for Congress in a district which includes some Marion County precincts. I'm not sure if what Amos said is true as I haven't seen this reported in any media outlet. I'm not sure I buy his argument that this consulting contract could help his wife since it is about redistricting the council. But I do question whether this bogus redistricting contract with David Brooks is a way of shoveling taxpayer money to another political insider. As I note above, there simply is no way of drawing those maps to help out the Republicans. There just aren't enough Republican votes on the north side of Indianapolis.