Government

New legislative maps put county at disadvantage, observers say

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Indiana’s newly redrawn legislative maps shake up area representation, making it harder for Montgomery County to have hometown voices at the Statehouse, local observers say.

The county will gain two House representatives and another senator under the maps, which received final approval from Republican lawmakers on Friday. After the proposed maps showed their districts shrinking, State Rep. Tim Brown and State Sen. Phil Boots, both Crawfordsville Republicans, announced they will not seek re-election in 2022.

Brown, chair of the House’s budget-writing Ways & Means Committee, was first elected in 1994 and Boots, the Senate’s pensions and labor chair, won his first term in 2006.

“We’ve been spoiled for the last few decades because we’ve had … two guys, our neighbors, that have been in the Statehouse, guys that we see around town that are right next door,” said Jim Johnson, chair of the Montgomery County GOP. “That’s going to be a little different now with the way that the maps are drawn.”

Under the previous maps, which are redrawn after every census, Brown’s District 41 covered all but western side of Montgomery County and most of Boone County. Western Montgomery County was represented by Attica Republican Sharon Negele of District 13.

The new map expands District 44, currently represented by Greencastle Republican Beau Baird, up from Putnam County and District 28, currently held by Lizton Republican Jeff Thompson, over from Boone and Hendricks counties.

Brown and Negele’s districts are left with one township a piece, Sugar Creek and Coal Creek respectively.

In the Senate, Lebanon Republican Brian Buchannan of District 7 picks up more than half of Montgomery County. Boots’ District 23 holds on to the western townships.

Before the districts were redrawn, a House or Senate candidate could claim victory by simply winning Montgomery County, Johnson said. The county now has less of an advantage in the polls with the majority of the district’s voters drawing from other communities.

That means the local Republican Party will have to work to ensure lawmakers have connections with local organizations and elected officials.

“If they are not from our community, that is especially important to have a good relationship with them and keep them involved and make sure we portray to them what our concerns are so that we’re best represented down at the Statehouse,” Johnson said.

The new maps drew objections from Democrats. After the proposed House districts were unveiled, the party issued a statement saying the districts “keep in place a broken system where self-serving politicians benefit at the expense of Indiana families.”

The new maps drew objections from Democrats, who say the redrawn districts give Republicans an excessive election advantage and dilute the influence of minority and urban voters.

Nonpartisan voter rights organizations also spoke out against the new redistricting plan.

“It is highly concerning that ... although we’ve done a lot of work to make citizens aware of this, our hands are tied because we’re a supermajority state,” said Helen Hudson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, “and watching that be the victory to those who already had it is a hard thing.”

 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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