GUEST COMMENTARY: We had no choice but to act on redistricting

2013-12-19T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: We had no choice but to act on redistrictingBy John Evans nwitimes.com
December 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Recent Times articles and editorials raised questions about the fairness and process of redistricting of the Porter County Council districts. Clearly, The Times failed to investigate the laws governing redistricting.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment embodies a "one person, one vote" principle which requires a state make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts which are as nearly of equal population as practicable. Indiana law states that the districts must have equal populations as nearly as possible.

It is the legal duty of the commissioners to assure the citizens in council districts have equal representation as nearly as possible. Some, including The Times, have inferred our current districts, with a 10.4 percent variance between the largest and smallest, are "good enough." Well, under the law, "good enough" is not good enough.

Indiana law says we must either redistrict or certify that existing districts contain equal population, as nearly as possible. With a 10.4 percent population variance, the commissioners cannot ignore the law and recertify districts we know are not equal in population as nearly as possible. Our only choice was to redistrict now or leave the county open to a lawsuit.

In compliance with state law, the new districts are equal in population, as nearly as possible. There is only a 3.19 percent variance between the population of the largest and smallest districts, vastly improved from the 10.4 percent difference that some said was good enough. Nine of the 12 townships are undivided between districts.

Porter County's population has grown by more than 17,500 since the last redistricting. Nearly 54 percent of that growth was in Portage, Center and Westchester townships. Without dividing those townships, it was impossible to achieve equal population among the districts, as nearly as possible. As much as possible, communities of interest were respected.

Some have falsely stated this is a rushed process. The commissioners first considered redistricting in December 2011. It was delayed at the request of the Democratic director of the Voters Registration Department. When it was raised again at the January 2012 meeting, we were informed we could not redistrict in an even numbered year.

It was raised again at our Oct. 15 meeting, nearly two months ago. The district council members have had nearly two years to provide their input. Yet not one of them ever called me to request a meeting to discuss it.

Finally, redistricting does not take away anyone's right to run for office. It does not impede anyone's right to vote. But it does assure, as much as possible, the voice of every citizen carries equal weight in selecting their County Council district representative. After all, that is what the U.S. Constitution and Indiana law requires and our citizens deserve.

John Evans is president of the Porter County Board of Commissioners. The opinions are the writer's.

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