(INDIANAPOLIS) – Democrats aren’t ruling out a legal challenge to Indiana’s new Senate districts.
The House and Senate gave final approval Friday to new maps of who represents you in Congress and at the statehouse. Governor Holcomb signed the new districts into law on Monday.
Democrats voted against the new districts, and have criticized them as slanted in Republicans’ favor. But it’s the 50 redrawn Senate districts that have them floating the possibility of a court challenge.
The map creates a fourth Senate district in Fort Wayne and a second in Evansville. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) charges those districts fracture minority communities. In Fort Wayne, Democrat Sharon Tucker is one of three African-Americans on the city council, but the only one elected to represent a single district. Taylor says her district is now split among three Senate districts.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to throw out maps which favor one political party, but maps which carve up minority communities can be challenged under the Voting Rights Act. Courts have invalidated maps which stuff minority neighborhoods into one district, or split them up among several districts to minimize those voters’ influence.
Taylor acknowledges that standard is a difficult one to meet in court, and says Democrats are still analyzing whether they’d have a case.
Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) says he’s confident the maps are legally sound. Bedford Senator Eric Koch (R-Bedford), who led the drawing of the Senate districts, says Republicans consulted an East Carolina University professor to make sure the maps met legal requirements.
The Senate did tweak the original proposal, adopting Democrats’ suggestion to shift the boundaries of nine districts in Marion and Hamilton Counties to avoid packing minorities into Taylor’s district. Senator Jean Breaux’s (D) district is believed to be the only remaining Indianapolis district with more nonwhite than white voters.
Republicans have controlled the Senate since 1978, and have held a supermajority since 2010 — their current margin is 39-11 after peaking at 41 senators. But Democrats’ struggles have extended beyond legislative and congressional races. The party hasn’t won a statewide contest since 2012, when Glenda Ritz unstated state school superintendent Tony Bennett and Joe Donnelly won an open U.S. Senate seat. Former President Donald Trump won 57% of the vote in Indiana in both of his campaigns.