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Panel strikes down Indy redistricting plan

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A Marion Superior Court judicial panel struck down new redistricting maps approved by the Republic-controlled City-County Council and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

In a 3-2 decision, the five-member panel said the framework for the redistricting plan was created too early. Indiana law has a statute that applies specifically to Marion County that says council members must redraw district boundaries during the second year after the census.

The U.S. Census took place in 2010, meaning boundaries should have been redrawn in 2012, the court said. Council Democrats argued that council Republicans redrew district boundaries and voted on them in 2011 before Ballard signed off in 2012. Because the plan was created in 2011, Democrats argued in a lawsuit filed in February that the redistricting map approved in 2012 was “null and void.”

Their lawsuit called for an injunction of the new districts and asked the court to redraw the boundaries to resolve the problem.

In the 3-2 decision unveiled Wednesday, three Democratic judges ruled to strike down the maps and redraw new districts. Two Republican judges said the districts passed in 2012 should stay.

The majority opinion said it was clear that the redistricting law meant that the redistricting process should have started between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2012. When Ballard signed the new districts into law on Jan. 1, 2012, the court said that didn’t meet the timetable requirement because council members didn’t conduct the process of redrawing the districts in 2012.

The dissenting opinion said that the GOP plan approved by Ballard was valid because the redistricting plan became law in 2012, which met the time requirement.

In a statement, Ballard appeared ready to challenge the ruling.

“This decision represents the beginning of what we anticipated will be a multi-review process,” Ballard said. “We are respectful of the judicial process and will reserve comments on the merits until the final determination is made.”

In their lawsuit, Democrats argued that Republicans pushed the plan through in the waning days of their council majority. A year later—with Democrats holding the majority—a new redistricting plan was submitted to Ballard, who vetoed it. The lawsuit claimed that “there is no lawful redistricting plan based on the 2010 federal census enacted by the Council in 2012.”

Ballard and city attorneys argued that the districts were legally redrawn and said signing them into law in 2012 met the requirements.