EDITORIAL: Delay implementation of Porter redistricting

2013-12-05T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Delay implementation of Porter redistricting nwitimes.com
December 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Porter County Board of Commissioners President John Evans nearly veered out into left field with a proposal for new Porter County Council districts.

Evans is the driving force behind this new plan, which would have shuffled precincts to remove Councilman Jeremy Rivas from his current council district. Evans is a frequent critic of Rivas.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners postponed the unveiling of the redistricting plan. Evans said at the start of the board's meeting that his proposal needed additional tweaking and wouldn't be discussed until Dec. 17.

That's strange timing.

The commissioners should have taken up the redistricting in 2011, when other counties did so, with the aid of new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Porter County's commissioners seem to have overlooked this responsibility until students at DePauw University in Greencastle claimed the county wasn't in compliance with requirements to equalize the number of residents within each council district.

The population differences aren't as much as the students thought, because they were relying on faulty data provided to the state by the Porter County voter registration office.

It doesn't reflect well on the county that this responsibility was not fulfilled two years ago. 

Waiting until right before an election looks suspicious, even if it's just a coincidence. Removing a council member from his district only intensifies the skepticism about motives.

If Rivas were to stay in that district, with the boundaries shifted, he would have to quickly find a new home within the district boundaries.

This proposed action is legal, because districts can be redrawn in any odd-numbered year, but doing so this late in the process is wrong.

When new districts were drawn for Lake County commissioner districts, the change was delayed until after the election. Perhaps that's an option in this case, too — especially since the districts are more balanced than the students realized.

Evans and his fellow commissioners should approve a plan this year that delays implementation until 2015 so the new districts are seen as reasonable, not politically strategic.

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