The Washington Times-Herald

October 18, 2013

Council districts out of balance

BY Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Daviess County officials are taking a look at the county council districts as part of a move toward redistricting. The county council has four district seats and three that are elected at large and it appears the district seats may not be in compliance with federal election law.

A study by DePauw University claims that council districts in Daviess and 85 more of Indiana’s 92 counties are not in compliance. The college posted the results and that caught the attention of the Association of Indiana Counties.

“When we saw this we sent out letters to the counties,” said Director of Governmental Affairs for A.I.C. “The only way to challenge districts is with a lawsuit, but the last thing any county official wants is an election result being thrown out in court.”

The A.I.C. contends the number of counties out of compliance is not nearly as large as DePauw claims. “We began checking and found that some of the counties had already re-drawn their districts, said Berger.

Daviess County is not one of those counties. The study claims Daviess County has not re-drawn the council maps since the 2010 census, has a 38 percent population deviation in districts and has one district that is broken into two pieces.

Those are all things the county will be looking to correct. “The law says the districts should be as equal as possible in population, within a 10 percent margin,” said Berger. “They should also be contiguous and as compact as possible without cutting up precincts. Finally, they should try to not cut up townships.”

The county council was made aware of the issue during its meeting earlier in the week. County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber laid out the issues. “It appears we are out of compliance,” he said. “We need to get with the clerk and get this going and get it done.”

The county is facing a time deadline to get the work done. The law says districts cannot be re-drawn in an election year. “That means we will need to get this done befor the end of the year,” said Swartzentruber. “I think this is going to be a matter of sitting down with the clerk, looking at the voting maps and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It will just have to fit within the precincts and if possible townships.”

While the council is the body that is affected by the changes and the clerk’s office will do the work by trying to lay out the new districts, it will ultimately be the county commissioners that will decide where the lines are drawn. “This is all local decision making,” said Berger. “The commissioners will have to pass an ordinance redrawing the districts.”

The study found a lot of problems in county council districts around the area.

The website claims Martin County has not redistricted since the census and now has a population deviation of 14 percent.

Pike County’s council districts have a 40 percent population deviation.