4-member advisory committee appointed to help with Monroe County redistricting

At its Wednesday meeting, the three-member Monroe County board of commissioners appointed four residents to give advice on the upcoming task of redrawing boundaries for precincts, as well as for county council and county commissioner districts.

The redistricting work on the local level has the same impetus as the state level process—the need to incorporate the results of the 2020 decennial census into voter districts for different elected offices.

The four appointees to the precinct and district boundary advisory committee (PDBAC) are: Regina Moore, Ed Robertson, Joyce Poling, and Hal Turner.

Elected to the city of Bloomington clerkship as a Democrat, Moore served in that role from 2000 to 2015.

Robertson is deputy chair of headquarters for the Monroe County Democratic Party.

Poling is assistant to the chancellor for community engagement at Ivy Tech Community College. Poling served as a Republican through 2007 on the Monroe County board of commissioners, which wrapped up a couple of decades of service in county government.

Hal Turner is currently the Republican appointee to the county election board.

The PDBAC will have to complete its work on a compressed timeline compared to previous years, because of the ripple effect of the late 2020 census. The late timing for release of 2020 census numbers led to a late start for state legislators on their work to redraw state-level boundaries.

It was not until Oct. 4 when Indiana governor Eric Holcomb signed off on the new state legislative districts.

An upcoming deadline of Oct. 15, set by the Indiana Election Division (IED), is not really a deadline for submission of final precinct shapes, according to county attorney Jeff Cockerill. At Wednesday’s meeting, Cockerill said he’d spoken to an IED attorney and the attorney characterized the date as not a deadline—it’s “an update time.”

Cockerill quoted out the part of the resolution that describes the considerations that the PDBAC can weigh in drawing the boundaries.

The lines are to be drawn to “promote contiguity, geographic integrity (keeping core neighborhoods together), geographically identifiable boundaries, and geographic compactness.” The resolution continues, “Underlying political affiliation, an area’s historical voting preference, shall not be considered during this process.”

Some basic rules for precincts include the fact that precinct lines can’t ever cross township lines, state legislative districts, or census blocks.

Based on a presentation given to the county election board last Thursday (Oct. 7) by Monroe County GIS coordinator Jared Eichmiller, one wrinkle is a new residential building, at the corner of 3rd and Grant Streets in Bloomington, which is split by a township line.

According to Eichmiller, the advice from the state on the split building is that it’s not a precincting issue—but the county will need to sort out which apartments in the building are in which township (Perry or Bloomington)

The precinct boundaries that are decided by county commissioners in the next few weeks could impact decisions made by Bloomington’s city council in 2022.

The basic building blocks of Bloomington’s six city council districts are precincts. That means changes to precinct boundaries made by county commissioners this year could impact the way city council district boundaries are drawn in 2022. The next municipal election comes in 2023.

Late last year, Bloomington’s city council passed an ordinance creating a nine-member citizens redistricting advisory commission (CRAC).

The CRAC is supposed to be established at the start of the year following each decennial census, exist for two years, then dissolve. That means the first edition of the CRAC was supposed to be established Jan. 1 of this year. As of Oct. 13, 2021, none of the nine members have been appointed.

What’s the logic behind establishing the CRAC a year ahead of the calendar year when the city council is required to redraw its district boundaries? The reasoning is related to the re-precincting work that the county government will be doing in the next few weeks. The idea is that Bloomington’s CRAC should provide input to county commissioners on the drawing of precinct boundaries inside the city.

As of Wednesday (Oct. 13), ​​18 applications have been received for spots on the CRAC but just 12 of them appear to be eligible to serve, according to city council administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas.

Eighteen eligible applicants is the bare minimum needed, in order for the city council to follow the appointment process outlined in the ordinance. The ordinance calls for a random selection from three pools of six applicants.

Excerpts from Oct. 7, 2021 election board slide deck:

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