Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission

All eight annexation ordinances that Bloomington’s city council will consider on Sept. 15 include a date on which their affected areas become a part of the city: Jan. 1, 2024.

To achieve the need population balance for city council districts, the results of the 2020 decennial census would already point to a need to redraw district boundaries. The assignment of an annexation area to one of the six city council districts as a part of an annexation ordinance is required by statute. Annexations would add to the pressures to redraw city council districts. (Map does not reflect the amendments made at the council’s Aug. 31, 2021 meeting)

That’s less than two months after the next city elections for mayor, city clerk and city councilmembers.

If the effective date were set for Jan. 1, 2023, annexees would be able to participate in the ordinary democratic process for choosing local representatives.

The fact that new residents of the city would have to wait until 2027 to participate in city elections is a source of fair complaint. Even some Bloomington city council members have admitted they feel bad about it.

While the council could vote to amend the annexation ordinances to change their effective dates to Jan. 1, 2023, the council has shown no visible signs that it’s inclined to do that.

If the city council does not want to make annexees city residents in time to give them the right to vote in the 2023 municipal elections, then the council should at least allow future annexees to have some influence on the upcoming process for re-drawing city council districts.

That would mean altering the city ordinance enacted late last year that establishes a citizens redistricting advisory commission (CRAC). Only city residents are allowed to serve on the nine-member group. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission”

Elections: Monroe County commissioners gearing up for redrawing of local boundaries after state-level districts are decided

At its Wednesday work session, Monroe County’s board of commissioners agreed on a resolution that will establish an advisory committee to guide its decisions on the redrawing of precinct and district boundaries for the county.

The upcoming work of potentially redrawing precinct boundaries—and possibly districts for county commissioners and county councilors—is prompted by the decennial census. That’s the same impetus for the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts, which is currently underway.

Results of the 2020 US Census were released in mid-August.

Redistricting work on the local level can’t be completed until the state-level districts are drawn. If an existing precinct is split by a state legislative or congressional district, it has to be redrawn so that it is not split.

Indiana’s state legislators are expected to settle on district boundaries in mid-to-late September.

Changes to precinct boundaries could have an impact on the redrawing of Bloomington city council districts in 2022, because precincts are the ordinary building blocks of council districts.

In the shorter term, work on the local level in the next several weeks will be done by the county government.

Oct. 15 is the deadline this year for a county to file a proposed re-precincting order with the Indiana Election Division (IED), according to a July 1 memo from the co-directors of the IED.

That means the county’s redistricting advisory committee will need to be established and its work completed in the next six weeks or so. Continue reading “Elections: Monroe County commissioners gearing up for redrawing of local boundaries after state-level districts are decided”

Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)

City Councilmember Steve Volan lives almost exactly in the middle of Bloomington.

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The blue cross hairs pinpoint the geographic center of Bloomington. Pink circles represent incumbents on the city council. Orange triangles represent challengers in this year’s elections. (Dave Askins/The Beacon)

The center of Bloomington’s area—the centroid calculated by a piece of geographic information software called QGIS—lies a few feet west of Indiana University’s Henderson Parking Garage on Atwater Avenue.

And of the nine people who represent Bloomington residents on the City Council, the one who lives closest to that exact geographic center of the city is Steve Volan. It’s about a quarter mile from the parking garage to his place. Continue reading “Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)”