Lawsuit challenges legality of Porter County Council redistricting

2013-12-30T17:10:00Z 2013-12-31T09:48:08Z Lawsuit challenges legality of Porter County Council redistrictingBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
December 30, 2013 5:10 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A lawsuit was filed Monday claiming the Porter County Board of Commissioners ran afoul with state law two weeks ago when the three members redrew district lines for the Porter County Council.

The challenge claims the commissioners erred in moving Westchester Township Precinct 17 from District 1 to 2, yet left it unattached from the 2nd District and at odds with state law requiring that all four districts be contiguous.

Attorney Edward Hearn, who filed the suit in LaPorte County on behalf of five plaintiffs, including County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, is seeking both temporary and permanent orders preventing the new districts from being enforced.

The preliminary injunction is sought because there will not be enough time to argue the case before candidate filings begin Jan. 8 for next year's council races, Hearn said. The decision to redistrict just weeks before the filing begins was among the concerns raised by critics.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 7 before LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos.

Commissioners Laura Blaney, D-South, and Nancy Adams, R-Center, and County Attorney Elizabeth Knight said Monday they had not seen the lawsuit and were not prepared to comment. Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, did not return a call seeking comment.

The three commissioners suspended the rules Dec. 17 to rush through two rounds of bipartisan approval of the plan, which they said narrows the population gap among the four districts from 10.4 to 3.19 percent. Indiana law requires that districts have as equal populations as possible.

Evans said the redistricting plan does not take away anyone's right to run for office, does not impede anyone's right to vote and does not change any polling places.

Yet the move tossed Rivas out of the district he now represents and left him unable to follow through on plans to seek re-election in that district next year. He has vented his anger over what he said was Evans' vengeful action against him.

The redistricting also relocated an uncertain number of voters to new council districts, including the four others bringing the suit — Danielle Cauley, Ryan Bailey, Patrick Heely II and Brian Smolnicky.

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