The Senate Chamber was filled with outrage and passion on Monday.
Around two dozen citizens spoke at the public hearing regarding the Senate-proposed redistricting maps, and not a single one of them approved.
Many sported “reform redistricting now” buttons on their chests.
Sen. Jon Ford, R- Terre Haute, and Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, introduce the Senate redistricting maps and welcome public testimony at a public hearing Monday. Over two dozen citizens spoke against the redistricting maps drawn by Republicans. Photo by Haley Pritchett, TheStatehouseFile.com.
Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, started the hearing by stating the goals kept in mind while drawing the maps. Some of those were to make the process transparent, strive to maintain communities of interest and keep compactness among the districts.
He also emphasized that the maps met all federal and state legal requirements.
But citizens challenged the effort and effectiveness of each of those goals.
One of the main issues that was continuously brought up was the lack of competition among districts, otherwise known as gerrymandering.
“Competitiveness is not a legal requirement,” Koch said.
Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, is an immigrant from the Middle East, an area that still struggles with the concept of democracy. He said because of this, he understands the value of democracy over self-interest.
The proposed maps would secure his legislative seat, he said. But he will vote against them.
“I personally will not support any map at the expense of our democracy,” he said.
Although the architects of the maps claim they strove for transparency, citizens claimed the maps were intentionally hard to read, especially because they were located on the Republican party’s website.
Theresa Bruno, who ran for state senate in 2020, was about to pot her plants this morning when she got a text from a friend asking if she would be attending the hearing. She did not know about the public hearing Monday until 8 a.m, an hour before it started.
“For someone as involved as I am, for me not to know about this …” she said.
Mary Kohen, from Columbus, said that the room did not represent Indiana. Because of the timing of the meeting and the lost hope for change among some Hoosiers, not many people could be there.
She herself did not find the maps easy to read.
“I am 60 years old, I have 60-year-old eyes, but I think even if I had 20-year-old eyes, I would not have been able to discern what these maps were and what they were trying to do,” she said.
Robert Lee Buggs, a veteran, urged legislators to consider the oath they take when they say the Pledge of Allegiance. And he asked legislators to think of a line from scripture next time they go to church: “That you do to the least of them, you do to me.”
Pauline Spiegel, a concerned citizen, said that the biggest issue is that the supermajority currently does not have to defend its ideas.
“That is a big problem,” she said. “If you don’t have to defend your ideas, you don’t have to have good ideas.”
The Senate Committee will vote Tuesday on the proposed maps, and if the bill passes, it will go to the full Senate.
Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.