Local committee recommends new, old district boundaries as state balks at a Monroe County precinct change

Two Monroe County council districts will trade a couple of townships. But county commissioner districts will keep the same boundaries.

Those are the unanimous recommendations made on Monday morning by a four-person committee, which was assigned the redistricting task by Monroe County’s board of commissioners.

The commissioners are expected to have the recommended boundaries on their work session agenda for this Wednesday (Nov. 17). A final vote is not expected until the week following Thanksgiving.

The district boundary recommendations won’t be affected by an objection that the state’s election division has made to one of the proposed tweaks to Monroe County’s precinct boundaries. The precinct boundary changes were already approved by county commissioners.

That means the four-person committee has essentially wrapped up its assigned task in its fourth week of work. A meeting set for Thursday this week, as well as Monday next week, will be left on the calendar, in case the need arises to meet again.

Members of the partisan-balanced committee are: two Democrats (Regina Moore and Ed Robertson) and two Republicans (Joyce Poling and Hal Turner).

County council districts

The county council districts were recommended by the committee to remain mostly the same.

District 2 and District 4 would see no changes to their boundaries.

The committee settled on a scenario labeled Option A on the dynamic mapping tool that was set up by the county’s GIS staff.

The recommended scenario is a straight-up township trade between District 1 and District 3.

The point of the trade is to balance out the population of the districts. After the 2020 census, the districts are out of kilter with respect to their population.

The first part of the trade calls for Washington Township in the north to go from District 1 to District 3. That’s at first maybe counterintuitive, because District 1 needs to have population added, not subtracted, in order to get its current population total (30,333) closer to the average, which is about 34,930.

But in exchange, District 1 would get Clear Creek Township in the south, which would give District 1 a net increase of 3,332 under Option A.

Also discussed by the committee was Option B, which would leave Washington Township out of the mix. But under Option B, just two of Clear Creek’s three precincts would transfer from District 3 to District 1.

A third option considered by the committee was Option C, which transfers all of Clear Creek Township to District 1, without any compensation for District 3.

That means Option C avoids splitting a township. But Option C would leave District 3 as the district with the smallest population of the four districts: 32,400 residents. That would be 2,775 fewer residents than the second-smallest district, which would be District 2, with 35,175 residents.

One argument for Option C was that District 3 encompasses territory that is growing in population faster than the other areas of the county, which means that it would naturally make up for its deficit in a few years.

In the end, the prevailing sentiment was the idea that the committee should consider what the current populations are, and not try to predict growth, or speculate about possible inaccuracies in the 2020 census count.

On top of that, Option C did not produce a variance in population among districts that was under 10 percent—which is the state’s recommended guideline. The calculation of variance for Option C [ (maximum – minimum) / mean ] yields 11.74 percent.

Counting against Option B was the fact that it split Clear Creek Township across council districts, putting two precincts in District 1 and one precinct in District 3. That’s to be avoided, all things being equal.

Pop Current Pop Option A Pop Option B Pop Option C
District 1 (red) 30,333 33,665 33,542 35,642
District 2 (purple) 35,175 35,175 35,175 35,175
District 3 (orange) 37,709 34,377 34,500 32,400
District 4 (green) 36,501 36,501 36,501 36,501
(Max-Min)/AVG 21.12% 8.12% 8.47% 11.74%
Total 139,718 139,718 139,718 139,718

County commissioner districts

After the 2020 census, the county commissioner districts were relatively out of balance: District 1 (48,123); District 2 (42,238); and District 3 (49,357). That’s a 15-percent variance based on the formula that ideally is supposed to yield a figure less than 10 percent.

The committee weighed transferring some precincts from District 3 and District 1 to District 2, to bring District 2 into alignment with the other two districts.

But committee members pointed to the fact that commissioners are elected by all voters in the county. The only purpose for commissioner districts is to define residency requirements for a commissioner, to promote geographic diversity in representation.

That means the population balance of commissioner districts is less important than for council districts.

One change that the commissioner districts will see, as a result of the re-precincting work the committee did, is the elimination of an island.

The District 1 island inside District 3 is caused by the fact that districts are defined by a list of precincts. The current Perry 04 precinct is listed out in commissioner District 1, which means that a “castle-shaped” discontiguous portion of Perry 04 shows up as an island in District 3.

The committee recommended eliminating the discontiguity in the Perry 04 precinct by assigning the “castle-shaped” area to Perry 23, which is included in District 3. That eliminates the island.

The committee agreed unanimously to recommend that the county commissioners keep the current commissioner district boundaries.

Objection by the state to precinct changes

On Monday, county attorney Jeff Cockerill told the committee about the state’s objection to a precinct change that Monroe County wants to make.

The objection is based on the statutory requirement that precincts established after June 30, 2019 have to include at least 600 active voters.

The proposed tweak to the Bloomington 08 precinct would transfer one census block to Bloomington 09—for two reasons. One reason is so that Bloomington 08 does not stretch across the SR 45/46 bypass.

A second reason to adjust the Bloomington 08 boundary is to prevent the precinct line from crossing through an apartment building.

The census block to be transferred has no residents. The transfer would leave Bloomington 08 with 427 active voters, which is fewer than the required 600 active voters for any newly established precinct.

The proposed change to the Bloomington 08 precinct would make it newly established, thus subject to the state statute.

When county attorney Jeff Cockerill relayed the news to the partisan-balanced committee, they had a negative reaction to the state’s objection to the precinct boundary change.

Committee member Regina Moore said, “This is just an example of someone looking at something from 30,000 feet in the air with a guidebook from the last century, and trying to say: You people down there on the ground really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Moore added, “And it doesn’t matter about that building, which is basically why we’re trying to do this.” Moore wrapped up her thoughts on the subject by saying, “I’m stunned. I’m just stunned.”

Committee member Hal Turner agreed with Moore: “I think there’s a time to push back. And this little bit of insanity is one of those places.”

The committee asked Cockerill to tell the county’s board of commissioners they should “push back” on the state’s feedback about transferring a census block from Bloomington 08 to Bloomington 09.

Cockerill translated his task into a motion for the committee to vote on, which was: “That the commissioners direct county staff to look at the availability of options to effectuate the change.”

The committee voted 4–0 in favor of trying to press forward on the proposed precinct change.

One thought on “Local committee recommends new, old district boundaries as state balks at a Monroe County precinct change

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