News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 10, 2013

Vigo, ACLU reach agreement over lawsuit

Suit will be dropped under redistricting plan that will remove Federal prison population, relocate 2 precincts

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A redistricting plan will remove federal prison facilities from a population count and relocate two precincts into a different election district for the Vigo County Council as part of an agreement to end a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The lawsuit was filed last month by the ACLU in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of county resident Sharon Russell. The lawsuit alleged county council district are not nearly equal in size.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that anything above 10 percent population deviation is presumptively unconstitutional.

County Attorney Michael Wright told the County Council on Tuesday then when the Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary is included in population counts “we were in the range of 18 percent discrepancy [for population deviation].”

Wright said he worked with the Vigo County Area Planning Department on a redistricting plan, with minimal changes. The plan moves Prairieton Precinct A and Prairie Creek Precinct A into County Council District 2, from District 4.

“It slices a little piece off County Council District 1, that being [precincts] 6A and 7D” and moves them into District 2, Wright told the County Council.

The plan also declares that the federal prison will not be counted in population for determining voting districts. The prison is in County Council District 4. “Once we declare that we are not considering the federal penitentiary’s population for purposes of calculation, the proposed plan would bring the precincts with one and a third percent of each other in terms of population,” Wright said.

District 4’s population will drop to 25,943, from the current 31,478, under the proposed plan.

Wright told the council he met last week with Kenneth J. Falk, legal director of the ACLU, and discussed the plan. “He has discussed it with his client and is agreeable to dismissing his lawsuit with prejudice and not claiming any attorney fees if the county adopts the proposed re-precincting plan that we have discussed,” Wright told the council.

The plan would not affect the residency status of any current council members, Wright said. The Vigo County Council has seven members, three of whom are elected at-large. The remaining four are elected by district.

The County Council agreed to have commissioners adopt the plan. By law, Wright said the county auditor must call a special meeting of commissioners to adopt the modified plan.

Wright said commissioners will act by the end of April on the plan.

The plan changes include moving Precinct 1A from council District 2 to District 4; Precinct 6A from council District 1 to District 2; Precinct 7D from council District 1 to District 2; Precinct 8 E from council District 4 to District 3; and Prairieton 9A, Prairieton A and Prairie Creek A each from council District 4 to District 2.



Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.