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County council districts to be redrawn

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DePauw University: Perry is nearly six times over legal limit

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

TELL CITY – County-council members and commissioners learned at a regular council meeting Nov. 26 a DePauw University study had revealed Perry is among counties statewide whose council districts need to be redrawn.

To the extent possible, the council districts must be equal in population, compact and contiguous, county attorney Chris Goffinet told members.

He had received a call a week earlier informing him Perry County’s districts are “substantially out of compliance.”

The numbers that must align as closely as possible are the population of each district, he explained, not the numbers of voters. District 4 has approximately 6,000 residents while District 2 has 2,900, he said as an example, and each should have “roughly 4,500.”

“That means we have to fix it now, before the next election,” the attorney said, explaining that “now” means before the end of the year. Changes cannot be made during an election year, and all four of the non-at-large seats will be up for grabs in 2014, he added. The county commissioners are responsible for making any changes and were to meet Friday.

They were in the audience at the council meeting and Goffinet said the council members were invited to attend the commissioners meeting, where redistricting possibilities were to be presented. A story on the commissioners meeting appears at right.

“You and the public need to be involved,” the lawyer told council members. The commissioners are scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Monday. They may take action then, he said, but also have a meeting set for 8 a.m. Dec. 20. They meet in the county courthouse.

Councilman Ron Crawford Sr. asked how close the numbers need to be.
“DePauw said within 10 percent,” Goffinet responded, “but there is no magic number.” Vigo County had populations within 1 percent of each other but was required to redraw its districts, he said.

That county was sued in 1993 and this year for failing to redistrict after census counts conducted every 10 years, most recently in 2010.

Perry County’s district populations deviate by up to 70 percent, according to Goffinet and as reported at http://indianalocalredistricting.com.

Containing research done by DePauw Professor Kelsey Kauffman and her students in 2011 and ’12, the website provides answers for each county to a series of questions designed to help determine compliance with election laws.

“Were the districts based on the 2000 census in compliance with state law?” is the first of those questions, and the response posted for this county is “no, the population deviation was at least 58 percent, almost six times the legal limit.”

The county’s current 70-percent deviation is the second highest in the state, the site notes. Prison inmates can’t vote and aren’t counted for redistricting purposes.

Another question asks whether current districts are compact and contiguous, a legal requirement, and the response for Perry County is, “Yes, reasonably so.”

The question, “is every precinct wholly contained within a single district?” also earned a “yes.”

Councilman Stan Goffinet asked if adjustments can be made after a redistricting occurs.

“Yes, in odd-numbered years that don’t have an election,” the attorney replied.

DePauw has sued counties for being out of compliance, he noted.