County Council members fear politics will taint redistricting

2013-10-16T15:30:00Z 2013-10-17T13:40:07Z County Council members fear politics will taint redistrictingBob Kasarda, (219) 548-4345
October 16, 2013 3:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A sudden rush by the Porter County Board of Commissioners to redistrict County Council district lines is causing concern among three of the council members looking at re-election bids next year.

Jim Biggs, R-1st, Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and James Polarek, R-4th, question the rush to take up the issue Tuesday and said the move is based on inaccurate information.

Concern was also voiced one of the commissioners who will decide the shape of the new districts is President John Evans, R-North, who has made disparaging comments about Biggs, Rivas and Polarek.

The seats held by Biggs, Rivas, Polarek along with Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, will be on next year's ballot.

Evans did not return a call Wednesday for comment, but Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said the reason for the rush to redistrict is that the county is out of compliance.

"We have to follow the law," she 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.

State statute and a federal court ruling say the population in the districts are to be made as equal as possible and not, as some believe, just to 10 percent of one another, she said.

The issue was brought to the forefront recently by students from DePauw University in Greencastle, who are pushing for council district compliance statewide.

The group is prepared to find an eligible person to file a lawsuit in any county that is not in compliance by the year's end, student program adviser Kelsey Kauffman said.

A lawsuit would take the redistricting decision out of the hands of the commissioners and could force the county to pay for a special election, she said.

Rivas said the information the students are using 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.

Rivas is reportedly at highest risk of being removed from his district because he lives at the far southern edge, as compared to the others, who are more safely tucked within their districts.

Kauffman said Porter County, which reportedly has not redistricted for at least the last 15 years, should have done so in 2011 in the wake of the 2010 Census.

"Everybody has lost the memory you have to do this," she said.

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