Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Weather closings delay Porter County redistricting suit decision

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The so-called “polar vortex” hitting the Midwest over the past few days is also putting the freeze on a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the Porter County Commissioners’ restructuring of County Council representative districts.

LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos was to hear the case today at 9 a.m. but LaPorte County Government had announced that all offices will be closed today “due to severe weather.”

Last week, County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and four residential voters living in precincts who had their districts flipped from District 2 to District 4 as a result of County Ordinance 13-17, contended that the Commissioners had not set the new boundaries in compliance with Indiana law.

The plaintiffs question the boundaries of Westchester Precinct 17, which was included in District 2, but the precinct’s cut off. Part of it is now detached from the other precincts and is completely surrounded by precincts Portage 6 and Westchester 11 in District 1.

The suit was filed by attorney Ed Hearn of Johnson & Bell in Crown Point, who said that Indiana law states that the County Commissioners must divide the four County Council districts with contiguous boundaries and therefore their ordinance approved on Dec. 17 is invalid under Indiana law.

Hearn said this morning that Alevizos granted his clients’ request to hear case before candidate filing began in Porter County on Wednesday, Jan. 8, but the hearing will now have to be rescheduled. He said he will put in a request for the judge to hear the case as soon as possible.

If the judge rules that Ordinance 13-17 is invalid under the law, Hearn said he will ask that Porter County then revert back to the previous redistricting ordinance. That would allow Rivas to run in District 2, which he currently represents on the County Council.

It might cause some upheaval depending on how many people living in those districts that were flipped file for a County Council seat, said Hearn who mentioned conflicts would be based on the ruling by the judge.

“We hope to get this resolved as soon as possible,” Hearn told the Chesterton Tribune today.

The soonest the Commissioners could redistrict would then be in 2015 because Indiana law forbids County Council redistricting to be done in an even-numbered year during County elections, Hearn said.

The Commissioners have retained an outside attorney from Indianapolis to represent them.

Meanwhile, the Porter County Voters Registration office said candidate filing will proceed as scheduled for tomorrow with the new boundaries in effect.

“We’re going to carry on our business in the usual way,” said Democratic Director Kathy Kozuszek in the Voters Registration office.

 

Posted 1/7/2014