On Monday night, Indianapolis City-County Council Democrats unveiled their proposed maps for new council districts.
(I know: We already have a map of new council districts that Mayor Greg Ballard approved on the morning of Jan. 1, right before his term expired and he was sworn in for a second one. But, as I spelled out all this in a previous column, Democrats said those maps were illegal, and proceeded to draw their own.)
One could argue, however, that whoever drew the map the Democrats presented, most likely favors Republicans because the map dilutes the minority-voting base, which traditionally votes Democrat, by dispersing potential African-American voters throughout more districts instead of enabling voting majorities in minority strongholds.
The Democratic map protects every incumbent by keeping them within their district boundaries and not moving them. Currently, Democrats control the council 16-13. But if you remove the at-large councilors from the equation, Republicans have a 13-12 majority. And had it not been for the usual insanity that has marked Beech Grove as of late, that number would be 14-11 because Republican Susie Day would probably not have lost to Democrat Frank Mascari. But I digress. It seems odd that Democrats would purposely draw maps to protect Republican incumbents. Granted, incumbency does not guarantee a win, but it does make it easier to run.
Now I know what you're thinking: Abdul, the fact that the Democrats' map protects Republican incumbents simply shows they were drawing maps without taking into political party affiliation. Okay, then help me out with this one: Why would Democrats draw a map that actually treats minorities worse than Republicans?
The GOP map, by consolidating Democratic councilors José Evans and Angela Mansfield into the same district, does set up a challenge where a representative of color could potentially be lost. But overall, the GOP provisions for African-American voters is much more robust than what the Democrats offer. The Republican-drawn map features eight districts where minorities are the voting majority: districts 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 17. In each of those districts, African-Americans and Hispanics make up more than 50 percent of the voting population.
With the Democratic map, unless I'm missing something, there are only three districts where the voting age African-American population exceeds 50 percent: districts 8, 10 and 11. To be fair, districts 15 and 18 are at 46 percent and District 6 is 39.87 percent. So, on a good day we're looking at six minority-majority districts.
If one employs a measure whereby the black, voting-age population equals at least 30 percent, the Democrats' map has more districts meeting that standards than the Republicans: Eleven to eight, respectively. But again, the GOP plan offers minority voters controlling interest of more districts than the Democrats.
And the Democratic map does not give us data on the Hispanic population.
Republicans drew six districts where the Hispanic population is at least 10 percent of the population. The largest is District 10 where Hispanics make up close to 24 percent of the population. If the Democrats' map reduces the chances for African-American representation from the Republican map, Lord only knows what it's doing to my brothers and sisters whose ancestors are from south of the border.
The good news in all this is that Mayor Ballard will veto this map, which is ironic. Some Democrats like to say the mayor is insensitive to the needs of blacks and other minorities. Who would have thought he would be the one who be coming to their rescue?