Analysis: 2024 edition of Bloomington city council will be different, by a little or a lot

In 2023, elections will be held for 11 Bloomington city offices—mayor, clerk, and the nine seats on the city council.

The image links to a dynamic version of the new Bloomington city council district map, which allows zooming in and out.

After the 2023 city elections, the composition of the nine-member Bloomington city council, which will be sworn in to start 2024, is sure to be different by at least one member. But it could be more.

That’s based on the fact that it’s not possible to serve or to run as mayor and city councilmember at the same time.

Also in the mix are new city council district boundaries, and a somewhat easier path to the ballot for candidates who want to run independent of a political party.

City council president Susan Sandberg has announced she’s running for mayor, which means she’s not running for city council.

To file an official declaration, Sandberg like other candidates in the municipal election, will have a 30-day window that starts Jan. 4, 2023, 118 days before the May 2, 2023 primary. Sandberg’s committee paperwork has already been filed.

The city is divided into six geographic districts, corresponding to six of the council seats. The other three seats are elected at large, that is, citywide. Sandberg is an at-large city councilmember, which means at least one of the three at-large council seats will be without an incumbent for the 2023 elections.

Other than the seat now held by Sandberg, the other two at-large seats could have the same representation in 2024—if both Jim Sims and Matt Flaherty were to seek and win re-election. That’s possible, but not guaranteed.

All things being equal, the city council’s early October adoption of new district boundaries would point to two additional new faces on the currently all-Democrat council.

Just two of the six current district representatives on the city council landed in districts where they are the only incumbent—Isabel Piedmont-Smith in District 1, and Ron Smith in District 3. They could choose not to run, or might not win reelection even if they run. But that’s a different scenario than a situation where two current district representatives have wound up in the same district.

The new district boundaries put incumbents Kate Rosenbarger and Sue Sgambelluri in District 2. They’re both first-term councilmembers. In 2019, Sgambelluri won her Democratic primary (for the former District 2) over incumbent Dorothy Granger and challenger Daniel Bingham. Sgambelluri won the general election in 2019 over Republican candidate Andrew Guenther.

In 2019, Rosenbarger won the Democratic primary (for the former District 1) over incumbent Chris Sturbaum and challenger Denise Valkyrie. Rosenbarger was unopposed in the general election.

Because there were no contested races for mayor, clerk or at-large council seats, the county election board decided not to hold a general election at all in 2019, except in Districts 2 and District 3 where the city council races were contested. In the 2019 District 3 race, Ron Smith narrowly outpointed independent Nick Kappas.

Also landing in the same district, after the new boundaries were drawn, are Dave Rollo and Steve Volan. They’re the longest-serving members on the council. Volan started his service in 2004. The year before that, Rollo was caucused into a vacant seat.

Rollo and Volan both live in the newly drawn District 4. In 2019, Volan faced no opponent in either the primary or the general election in the former District 6. Volan also faced no opponent in 2015, for either the primary or general elections.

During the city council deliberations on redistricting, Volan said about the new district map, “I could run against my honorable colleague Dave Rollo. If I want to continue my career as a councilmember in the same [numbered] district, I’d be forced to move, or I’d have to consider running at large, or retiring.”

To sum up, if none of the six current district representatives move to a different district, or choose to run at large, that would mean that two more current city councilmembers, besides Sandberg, would not return in 2024.

The newly drawn District 4, like the old District 4, is an area of the city that includes older neighborhoods, where voter turnout is relatively high. Based on The B Square’s analysis, for the Nov. 8, 2022 general election, which just concluded, the raw number turnout in the new District 4 was the highest of any Bloomington city council district.

The old District 6 was an area with a high concentration of Indiana University students. The newly drawn District 6 has an even higher concentration of college students. Achieving higher student participation in elections has been a persistent challenge.

Comparing turnout in same-numbered council districts in 2018 to same-numbered districts in 2022, they all showed decreased numbers. But District 6 was off by more than other districts.

For potential candidates for city council who would like to run for a seat unaffiliated with any party—especially for those who might be mulling a run in District 6—the lighter turnout in 2022, compared to 2018, is good news.

To qualify for the ballot, an unaffiliated candidate has to collect a number of signatures that is at least 2 percent of the total number of votes cast by voters in the district for the most recent secretary of state election. Based on unofficial vote totals from the Nov. 8 secretary of state election, here’s the B Square’s breakdown for the number of signatures required for each city council district.

Unofficial, based on unofficial 2022 results (no provisional ballots)

Council District  2022 SOS votes 2023: SIGS NEEDED  2019: SIGS NEEDED 
District 1 3,053 62 86
District 2 2,792 56 65
District 3 2,367 48 89
District 4 3,697 74 119
District 5 5,214 105 111
District 6 475 10 47

For potential candidates who want to declare a candidacy for office affiliated with a party, it’s not as simple as deciding to run as a Democrat or a Republican.

Under Indiana election law, in order for someone to declare a run for office as a candidate who is affiliated with some party, the most recent two primaries in which the person has participated  have to be that party’s primary. The requirement for the proper primary voting record is a part of the form that candidates fill out.

If someone doesn’t have the required primary voting record, it’s still possible to declare as a candidate affiliated with a party, if the county’s party chair signs off on it.

7 thoughts on “Analysis: 2024 edition of Bloomington city council will be different, by a little or a lot

  1. What is the residency requirement for city positions? How long must one reside in the district prior to filing or the election?

    1. Thanks, Sue, for that question. Here’s a statutory citation:

      And here’s what the statute says:

      IC 3-8-1-27 Common council member
      Sec. 27. A candidate for membership on common council of a second or third class city must:
      (1) have resided in the city for at least one (1) year; and
      (2) have resided in the district in which seeking election, if applicable, for at least six (6) months; before the election.

      From that it’s not clear (to me) from which date the 6-month requirement is calculated. The wording seems to point to a date calculated backward from the date of the November election. But from a practical perspective, that would mean that a candidate during almost all of a primary campaign would might not yet be eligible as a candidate—in which case, I suppose an opponent could try to make some hay out of that. Let’s say a candidate for a primary race intends to move into the district six months before the general election, but does not manage to do that. That would disqualify the party’s elected nominee, but I think party could, in that case, caucus in some other candidate, because the disqualification would be evident before the deadline for caucusing in.

      It would have been better, I think, if the legislation focused just on the attributes of a candidate that are knowable and verifiable at the time of filing a declaration. I’ll send in a question to the Indiana State Election Division and ask for some clarity on this point.

      1. This is the date that the 6 month requirement is referring to:

        IC 3-8-1-1.7 “Before the election”
        Sec. 1.7. As used in this chapter, “before the election” refers to a general, municipal, or special election.

        As added by P.L.3-1993, SEC.53.

  2. Ideally, city elections should have the biggest turnout, because that is the election where government is closest to the people.

  3. Responding to a B Square query, Matthew Kochevar, who is co-general counsel for Indiana’s State Election Division, confirmed that “the election” in IC 3-8-1-27 does refer to the November election. He also provided an additional relevant citation from Indiana State Code:

    IC 3-8-1-1 Candidates must be registered voters
    Sec. 1.

    (a) This section does not apply to a candidate for any of the following offices:
    (1) Judge of a city court.
    (2) Judge of a town court.

    (b) A person is not qualified to run for:
    (1) a state office;
    (2) a legislative office;
    (3) a local office; or
    (4) a school board office;

    unless the person is registered to vote in the election district the person seeks to represent not later than the deadline for filing the declaration or petition of candidacy or certificate of nomination.

    From Matthew Kochevar, who is co-general counsel for Indiana’s State Election Division:
    “Under this section, when it comes to a city council candidate wanting to run in the May primary election to win the Democratic or Republican nomination for that office, the candidate must be a registered voter of the election district, in this case the city council district, by the candidate filing deadline to be eligible to be a candidate for that office. The candidate filing deadline for the May 2023 primary election is noon, Friday, February 3, 2023.”

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