VALPARAISO | An error by local election officials helped to trigger the hotly disputed rush underway by the Porter County Board of Commissioners to reconfigure four County Council districts about a month before the candidate filing process begins.
The population discrepancies among the districts is less when the correct figures are used, though it remains up to the commissioners to decide whether they still consider the differences great enough to pursue the redistricting, Porter County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke. Breitzke is charged with helping local election officials prepare voter precincts.
There is about a 10.4 percent difference between the least populated council district held by Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd and the largest populated district held by Jim Biggs, R-1st, Breitzke said.
While the 10 percent difference has been held up as a target, a state election official has said the districts are to be made as equal in population as possible.
The figure was originally said to be as high as 25 percent by a group of students from DePauw University in Greencastle, who are pushing for council district compliance statewide. The students came to their conclusion using faulty information provided to the state by the county voter registration office.
Sundae Schoon, the Republican director at the county voter registration office, confirmed the error Friday and said eight precincts were listed within the wrong council districts.
While concern initially focused on the potential of Rivas being reconfigured out of his district, some now predict the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners will attempt to configure candidates of choice into the districts in time for next year's election.
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who appears to be leading the redistricting effort, did not return a telephone call Friday for comment.
Breitzke said Friday he determined the population of the districts as follows: District 1, held by Biggs, at 43,199; District 4, held by Republican James Polarek, at 42,188; District 3, held by Republican Karen Conover, at 40,033; and District 2, held by Rivas, at 38,925.
Local Democrats raised concerns about the fairness and timing of the redistricting during a public hearing last week held by the commissioners.
When they pointed out the county was supposed to carry out the redistricting by law two years ago following the 2010 census, Evans said no one brought it to his group's attention.
The commissioners are expected to carry out the redistricting during meetings on either Dec. 3 or Dec. 17. Candidate filings begin Jan. 8 for the four council districts in question.
Porter County has reportedly not redistricted for at least the past 15 years.