Northwest Indiana will continue to comprise a single congressional district if the new legislative boundaries under consideration at the Indiana Statehouse are enacted into law.
House Republicans on Tuesday released their proposed redistricting maps for Indiana's nine congressional districts and the 100 Indiana House districts ahead of public hearings on the maps set for Wednesday and Thursday, and a chamber vote expected next week.
Under the plan, the 1st Congressional District — currently represented by U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland — would continue to contain all of Lake County and all of Porter County, along with a slice of LaPorte County.
The LaPorte County component, which since 2011 has included Michigan City and the western fourth of the county, would shift to a square in the northwest corner of the county that includes the entire shoreline of Lake Michigan and most of the city of LaPorte.
Mrvan said he appreciates the leaders of the Republican-controlled General Assembly recognizing the value of maintaining Northwest Indiana, and its unique communities of interest, as a single congressional district.
"Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties share not just the shoreline of Lake Michigan, but there are also rich cultural and diverse populations who share interests in industry, manufacturing, educational institutions, civic organizations, and transportation infrastructure," Mrvan said.
"I will continue to build upon the initiatives of Congressman Visclosky, who throughout his distinguished career worked tirelessly to tie Indiana’s First Congressional District counties together, including through the recognition of the Indiana Dunes National Park, the successful expansion and recapitalization of the South Shore rail line, or the advocacy for the domestic steel industry — all with a focus to create more opportunities and a thriving economy for everyone in the Northwest Indiana community."
New legislative districts are drawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census to adjust for population shifts and ensure every district in the state contains approximately the same number of inhabitants.
The state's 2020 population of 6,785,528 means each Indiana congressional district must have 753,948 people.
The new maps show the LaPorte County territory currently represented by Mrvan, including Clinton, Cass and Dewey townships, would become part of the 2nd Congressional District served by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Elkhart.
Newton and Jasper counties would remain in the 4th Congressional District, centered in Lafayette, that also would grow to take in more of the western and southern suburbs of Indianapolis. U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, R-Greencastle, is the district's congressman.
The proposed new maps for the Indiana House similarly appear to tweak existing legislative districts, rather than making wholesale changes for partisan advantage.
The plan calls for Northwest Indiana to continue having 12 representatives in the House, with six districts solely in Lake County, two spanning Lake and Porter counties, two districts exclusively in Porter County, one district in both Porter and LaPorte counties, and one district in LaPorte and Starke counties.
State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, said his preliminary review of the maps shows most Lake County districts moving south to account for the population growth in St. John, Cedar Lake, Crown Point and Winfield relative to the population losses in Hammond and Gary.
"I don't see it as any surprise," Slager said. "The population has shifted south and so have the districts. It appears to me it's pretty much that simple."
For example, under the new maps, Slager's 15th District would contain all of Dyer, Schererville, and St. John, while the 12th District of state Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, would gain Slager's current portion of Griffith, plus Munster and Highland.
State Rep. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, said he also still is analyzing the proposed maps to how they affect his 2nd District of East Chicago and Gary, as well as their impact on other Democratic members of the House.
"It doesn't look like it's been a wholesale, drastic change for our makeup of districts," Harris said.
Among the changes are extending the 19th District, represented by state Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, to include more of Porter County, shifting part of the 11th District of state Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, from Porter County into Newton and Jasper counties, and reworking the 4th District of state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, from Valparaiso and its environs to include more of southern and eastern Porter County.
The 9th District of state Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, also would give up Westville to contain more of northern LaPorte County, with the former parts of her district going into the 20th District of state Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie.
"These proposed maps are the culmination of a months-long effort, which included listening to Hoosiers across the state," said state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, the sponsor of the redistricting legislation in House Bill 1581.
"We pulled together all the data along with public input to draw fair maps that account for shifts in population over the years."
On the other hand, House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said he's skeptical maps crafted solely by Republicans truly can be fair to both political parties.
"While we don’t know everything about these newly drawn districts, we do know that any map drawn with the assistance of high-priced D.C. consultants, using advanced political and consumer data points, will benefit the Indiana GOP — not Hoosier voters," GiaQuinta said.
The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate is due next week to release its proposal for remapping the 50 Senate districts.
Members of both chambers then will review, revise, and ratify the new congressional, House and Senate maps before sending them to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb in early October for final approval.
The new districts will be used for the first time in the 2022 elections when the 9 Hoosier congressmen, all 100 state representatives, and 25 of 50 state senators will be on the ballot.