Fairness of council redistricting called into question

2013-11-19T15:30:00Z 2013-12-09T02:11:30Z Fairness of council redistricting called into questionBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
November 19, 2013 3:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Local Democrats are questioning the fairness of a decision by the Republican-controlled Porter County Board of Commissioners to redistrict four County Council districts about a month before the candidate filing process begins.

Porter County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, who is reportedly at highest risk of being drawn out of his district, asked during a public hearing Tuesday why the commissioners did not carry out the redistricting two years ago when it was required by law following the 2010 census.

"I just fear it won't be fair to everybody," he said.

Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who has taken issue with Rivas and other council members, took offense to the concerns raised about fairness.

He said the redistricting was not done in 2011 because no one brought it to the attention of the commissioners.

"We will comply with the law," he said.

He said the commissioners will take Tuesday's comments under consideration when drawing up the new council districts in time for he, Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Blaney, D-South, to take action at meetings on either Dec. 3 or Dec. 17.

Porter County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Chidester questioned why the commissioners did not come up with the new districts ahead of the hearing so the public would know how to comment.

Rather, Evans asked for comments for or against the redistricting process, which Chidester said is not the point.

The rush by the commissioners to redistrict surfaced last month after students from DePauw University in Greencastle claimed as part of a statewide effort that the county was not in compliance with district population requirements.

Rivas and others said the information the students used to make their case is inaccurate. Among the inaccuracies is the claim his district takes in all of Portage Township, when six precincts are actually elsewhere, he said.

Leslie Barnes, co-legal counsel with the Indiana secretary of state's Election Division, said counties are required to redistrict every 10 years on the year following a census and make the population in the council districts as equal as possible and not, as some believe, just to 10 percent of one another.

Porter County has reportedly not redistricted for at least the past 15 years. Candidate filings begin Jan. 8 for the four council districts in question.

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