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State election commission will try again to consolidate Lake County's small voting precincts

The Indiana Election Commission agreed Friday to reconvene March 9 and take up its unfinished work of consolidating Lake County voting precincts with fewer than 600 active voters. The commissioners are, from left, Republican Zachary Klutz; Republican Bryce Bennett, Jr., the chairman; Democrat Karen Celestino-Horseman; and Democrat Suzannah Wilson Overholt.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Election Commission seemingly is planning to follow Attorney General Curtis Hill's pronouncement that it remain in session until approving a plan to consolidate Lake County's numerous small voting precincts.

On Friday, the commission recessed its meeting on unrelated election matters, instead of adjourning, so as to technically abide by the state lawyer's official opinion when the commission reconvenes to consider Lake County precinct consolidation issues at 12:30 p.m. Region time March 9 at its Indianapolis office.

The four-member commission, composed of two Republicans and two Democrats, last year failed to garner the three votes needed to enact either of the two consolidation plans offered by Lake County Republicans.

Lake County Democrats contend the 2017 law requiring the consolidation of precincts with fewer than 600 active voters is illegitimate.

It's also the subject of a federal voting rights lawsuit filed by the Indiana NAACP.

In any case, the Republican attorney general contends the commission has a continuing obligation under Senate Enrolled Act 220 to create, debate and vote on consolidation plans until one is approved.

Republican Bryce Bennett Jr., the commission chairman, said he is confident that by working with the Indiana Election Division staff, a compromise plan can be crafted that wins majority support.

Suzannah Wilson Overholt, a Democratic commissioner, pointed out that she proposed doing exactly that last summer, but the Republican commissioners refused to go along with the idea.

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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.