Thursday, November 29, 2012

Indianapolis Council Democrats Move Forward with Redistricting Plan

Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports:
The City-County Council rules committee tonight approved the majority Democrats' redistricting plan, setting up a final vote Monday.
Committee members voted 5-1-1 along party lines, with GOP minority leader Michael McQuillen abstaining because the final public presentation on the plan had not yet occurred. That presentation is set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday during the Municipal Corporations Committee meeting at Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, 5603 E. 38th St.
If the full council approves the proposed council district maps Monday, a veto by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is likely. The Republican mayor already has signed off on redrawn boundaries approved last December by the council's outgoing GOP majority. 
Democrats say they are required by state law to redraw the district boundaries this year, based on 2010 census data. The matter could end up in the courts next year as the parties fight out the issue. 
As I've reported on these pages, Indiana law requires that the Indianapolis City-County Council redistrict in the second year after the census, i.e. 2012.  No one seems to dispute that.  However, that created a political problem for Republicans.  The GOP had the majority in 2011 on the Council.  But with the Democrats winning a majority on the Council in the November 2011 election, Republicans couldn't redistrict in 2012.  So they tried something clever.  The lame duck Republcian majority passed a redistricting plan in late December 2011, and had the re-elected Republican Mayor Greg Ballard sign it on 1/1/2012.

The problem for Republican is that the statute specifically talks about the council dividing the county into 25 districts, explicitly mandating that this process be done in 2012.
IC 36-3-4-3 
City-county legislative body; division of county into districts; composition of body; election; petition for division of county 
(a) The city-county legislative body shall, by ordinance,  divide the whole county into twenty-five (25) districts that:
(1) are compact, subject only to natural boundary lines (such as railroads, major highways, rivers, creeks, parks, and major industrial complexes);
(2) contain, as nearly as is possible, equal population; and
(3) do not cross precinct boundary lines.
This division shall be made during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted and may also be made at any other time, subject to IC 3-11-1.5-32.
The proposed 2012 Democratic map, which indisputably meets the requirements under the statute that one be passed this year by the council, is likely to be vetoed by Mayor Ballard.  The Democrats are unlikely to muster the Republcian votes necessary to override that veto.

Under the law (not quoted above), any taxpayer or registered voter can challenge the failure of the council to pass a 2012 map.   That is almost a certainty, which means a trip back to court.   Although the Republicans have a weak legal argument that the statutory requirement of a 2012 redistricting by the council is met, that argument is not so bad as to summarily get thrown out of court.  Most likely you're talking expensive litigation fought out with overpriced politically-connected law firms.  The taxpayers will end up footing the bill for the litigation and very likely it will, once again, be the Indiana Supreme Court drawing the council maps.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail in the Mayor's office and this expense to the taxpayers will be avoided by a reasonable compromise recognzing that, if the parties do not compromise, the decision to draw the maps will be taken away from by the courts.


Zuma said...

You cite the exact wording of the statute: “This division shall be made during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted.”

If the old Council’s districts followed the current census and went into effect in 2012, then . . . this division shall (have been) made during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted.

The letter of the law has been met!

Your opinion of what the Council should do is a mere embellishment and found nowhere in the statute.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Uh, no.

The law says:

The City-County [Council] shall divide...this division shall take place in the second year after the census.

"Division" at the end of the section refers back to the council shall "divide" language at the start of the statute. The council didn't "divide" in 2012; it divided in 2011. The Mayor approved what the council did in 2012. But the council still divided in 2011.

The notion that the "letter of the law" was followed because the mayor signed it on 1/1/2012 would probably get a very chilly reception in court. It was obviously a transparent manuever designed to try to get around actually complying with the statute. I'm reminded of a certain President who claimed his answer in a deposition depended on what the meaning of the word "is" is. Most judges, rightfully, have a very low tolerance for those kind of games.

Zuma said...

If the Legislature intended the meaning that you want, then it would have stated:

“In the second year after the census, the City-County Council shall adopt an ordinance to divide the County into districts.”