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State commission takes up task of consolidating Lake County election precincts

The Indiana Election Commission discusses Friday how it will go about consolidating Lake County election precincts with fewer than 600 active voters. From left, Commissioner Zachary Klutz; adviser Brad King; Chairman Bryce Bennett Jr.; Vice Chairman Anthony Long; and Acting Commissioner Karen Celestino-Horseman.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Election Commission began working Friday to consolidate Lake County's numerous "small" voting precincts after local officials failed to adopt a bipartisan plan on their own.

The two Republicans and two Democrats on the state panel unanimously agreed to allow the Lake County Republican, Democratic and Libertarian party chairmen to submit proposed consolidation plans to the commission by July 13.

Members of the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration were given until Aug. 1 to file recommended precinct plans with the state.

The commissioners also gave themselves individual authority to craft preliminary plans, though none appeared eager to do so.

"I would strongly encourage the Lake County folks to sit down and work this out," said Anthony Long, the Democratic vice chairman of the commission.

The election commission expects to review any submitted plans during its Aug. 9 meeting at the Statehouse and could adopt a new county precinct plan that day.

A state law enacted last month requires Lake County precincts with fewer than 600 active voters, of which there are 283, be merged with adjacent precincts to reduce the cost of staffing and equipping the county's 523 total precincts.

The consolidation plan ultimately adopted by the state commission will determine in part where Lake County residents vote in the 2018 elections.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.