Thursday, December 29, 2011

Redistricting Indy: Fair is foul

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
  • Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

Fair is foul and foul Is fair

I know quoting Shakespeare's "Macbeth" when starting a blog post on the recent redistricting of the Indianapolis City-County Council maps might seem a bit odd, but trust me on this one. It will make perfect sense when I am done.

First, you have to understand the line. Not to turn into your 11th grade British Literature teacher, but in so many words it means things can be the opposite of what they appear. Such as it is with the recently approved CCC maps. I can say this because not only have I studied the maps and the data they are based upon, but I also have the dubious honor of being the only person in Marion County who attended every public hearing on the maps, the CCC committee and full Council meeting where the maps were approved.

In a nutshell, new maps have to be approved every 10 years because of the changing populations due to the census. New council districts have to be drawn and as close to equal population as possible. Ten years ago, Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson and the Republican council couldn't agree on maps so the Indiana Supreme Court ended up drawing them. This time around Republicans drew the maps in hopes that Republican Mayor Greg Ballard will approve them. Democrats have cried foul, arguing the maps are gerrymandered to favor Republicans, they violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state law says the maps must be drawn in 2012.

click to enlarge 2011 City-County Council Districts
  • 2011 City-County Council Districts
Unfortunately for my Democratic friends, those arguments hold about as much water as a bucket with a giant hole in the bottom. You see, instead of drawing a map that looked like a giant Rorschach test which diluted Democratic voting strength and impaired minority voting powers, the maps not only meet the legal requirements set down by the state and federal governments and doubles the amount of minority participation by creating six Council districts with minority populations of more than 50% and two with more than 45%; one of them is 24% Hispanic.

In addition, based on the 2010 Recorder's race numbers the maps at best create 10 districts each where Democrats and Republicans have a baseline of 55% of the voters and 5 districts which could be considered competitive. If you increase that number to 60% baseline, Democrats actually do better than Republicans.

click to enlarge Proposed changes to the City-County Council districts for 2012.
  • Proposed changes to the City-County Council districts for 2012.
The Districts aren't straight squares anymore, they look more like rectangles. However, don't forget that when the Indiana Supreme Court drew the maps 10 years ago there were about 900 precincts, now there are 600. I would also point out that in 2001 when new maps were drawn, then Mayor Bart Peterson spent about $170,000 on the process, adjusted for inflation in today's dollars that would be about $210,000. The contract to draw these maps was for about $225,000, and that included drawing new precincts which had to be done by law.

So let's do a quick recap, we have new CCC maps, which are competitive, don't dilute minority voting rights, but instead increases them, they protect communities of interest and were done at a cost slightly more than what was done 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation. As far the maps being drawn in 2012, if I were the Mayor I would sign them on the morning of January 1 before my term expired and that would be the end of that discussion.

click to enlarge Proposed council districts by population, race and party.
  • Proposed council districts by population, race and party.
What was the problem again? Ah, I know, Democrats were expecting Republicans to draw maps that were heavily in the GOP's favor, but it didn't happen. Instead that got maps that were legal, fair, competitive and increased minority representation. So when I hear them complain about the new maps, I immediately think of a line from another Shakespeare play, "they doth protest too much, methinks."

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Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, the editor of IndyPolitics.Org and a frequent political analyst for RTV 6.

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