Council Democrats file lawsuit challenging redistricting plan

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INDIANAPOLIS – Three City-County Council Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing the council redistricting plan approved in 2012 by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

Council President Maggie Lewis and members John Barth and Vernon Brown filed the lawsuit. Their argument revolves around the time span in which the redistricting plan was created. According to the suit, the plan was created in 2011, although the redrawn districts weren’t approved by Ballard until 2012.

According to the law, the council must redraw district boundaries using 2010 census data in 2012.

The redistricting is “null and void,” the lawsuit said, because the lines weren’t drawn “during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted.” The plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction against the new districts. In addition, they’re asking the court to redraw district boundaries to resolve the matter.

The suit names three members of the Marion County Election Board as defendants—Clerk Beth White and members Mark K. Sullivan and Patrick J. Dietrick.

The lawsuit said the then Republican-controlled council—in a party-line vote—pushed the new district lines through in the waning days of its majority in 2011 despite protests from Democratic members. All 15 Republican members voted in favor of the proposal; 13 Democrats and the council’s only Libertarian member voted against it.

A year later—with Democrats holding the majority—a new redistricting plan was submitted to Ballard, who vetoed it. The lawsuit claims, following that veto, that “there is no lawful redistricting plan based on the 2010 federal census enacted by the Council in 2012.”

A five-member panel of judges will now hear the case.

Ballard’s office released a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“The maps that were signed into law by the Mayor in 2012 are more compact and better reflect the great diversity of Indianapolis. The City is confident the legality of the maps will be upheld.”   

Ballard argues that redistricting is valid because he signed the current maps into law on Jan. 1, 2012—which meets the requirements.

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