Southern Indiana

Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature has released new election map drafts that include a major restructuring of Southern Indiana’s District 9.

Indiana House Republicans

Southern Indiana’s District 9 followed I-65 in the 2011-2021 Congressional map (left, in yellow), but lawmakers shifted it to the southeast in their redistricting proposal (right, in pink).

The boundaries for District 9, along with neighboring District 6, received the most drastic changes in the state. The district still includes Clark and Floyd counties, but it shifted southeast from the I-65 corridor to counties closer to the Ohio River.

Four of the district’s original 13 counties were left out of the newly-proposed map, including two suburban counties near Indianapolis. But it picked up 9 new counties, bringing the district’s new total to 18.

Republican Congressman Trey Hollingsworth doesn’t think the changes will alter the dynamic of upcoming races.

“I do think there are big differences between the suburban Johnson County and Morgan County versus the more rural counties that I’m picking up on the east side,” he said. “I think the demographic changes, certainly the need changes. But I think from a political standpoint, it feels like we all share the same common values.”

Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the U.S. Census. From 2011 to 2021, District 9 followed I-65 north from the Louisville area to just south of Indianapolis.

The new boundaries focus more on the Ohio River. Hollingsworth said that could open opportunities for those communities to better utilize the waterway.

“The Ohio River does a tremendous amount of volume of cargo that enables this country’s economy to function,” he said. “Whether you’re a farmer, whether you’re in manufacturing, whether you’re an airline flying in and out there, it’s really important to make sure that we protect this great asset that we’ve got from an economic and from an environmental standpoint. And now we’re going to have a very unified voice in doing so.”

In District 9’s old map and in its newly-proposed boundaries, all but one county — Monroe County, the home of Indiana University — voted for Donald Trump in the last two elections. 

From 2001 to 2011, the congressional map for District 9 looked similar to the one proposed by lawmakers this week. During that time, Democratic Congressman Baron Hill won three of his five elections to represent the district. Republicans have won every race since the map changed in 2011. Hollingsworth won his last election in 2020 by about 26 percentage points.

Ninth District Democratic Chairman Adam Dickey said though the new map and the one from 20 years ago are similar, much of the region has shifted to the right politically in recent years.

“If you look at it demographically, clearly those areas have been voting Republican, not just in recent times, but even back when Baron Hill was in office, and some when Lee Hamilton was in office,” Dickey said. “Those areas have been voting more and more Republican, so I think it’s still going to be a challenging district now.”

Dickey said the shift from more suburban parts around Indianapolis to the rural counties of southeastern Indiana could make the district less diverse, which could further favor Republicans. But he sees the lack of public input on the maps as the bigger issue. Lawmakers conducted listening tours across the state this summer to hear from constituents. But because Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers, Dickey argues that they have no incentive to compromise.

“You, obviously, can’t change the makeup of your state and your regions,” Dickey said. “But I think providing for a fair process to make sure that citizens are effectively heard, not just before a map is presented but after a map is prepared, is important.”

Fewer Changes To State-Level Office Districts

Some minor changes were made to Southern Indiana’s state house districts. Democratic state Rep. Rita Fleming’s District 71 includes Jeffersonville. It remained mostly intact, though she lost a portion of Utica and gained part of New Albany.

Despite Republicans having full control of the process, Fleming said she doesn’t feel like her reelection chances have been impacted by the redistricting. But she said it’s important for Democrats to find new ways to garner support in a region that has trended to the right.

“Quite frankly, I think that we as Democrats have an opportunity perhaps to gain a little bit more,” she said. “But I think perhaps we need to do some introspection and make a real effort to reach those people in the districts that we represent.”

State Rep. Ed Clere’s District 72, which includes New Albany, picked up a precinct in Georgetown and Franklin and lost a portion of Lafayette. Precincts lost by Clere and Fleming went to districts 70 and 66. Dickey said population changes drove much of the redrawing of Southern Indiana’s maps for state office.

Lawmakers will hold a series of meetings in Indianapolis next week to move through the process of approving the new maps. Initial drafts for State Senate redistricting are also expected next week. A comparison of past State House maps and the new proposal can be viewed here, and one for Congressional districts can be viewed here.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.