September 11, 2013Following the 2010 decennial census, county governments have the opportunity to redraw county council and school board districts. However, the districts must be redrawn during a non-election year. Therefore, if Crawford County is going to better proportion its four districts, it must do so this year.
Since the county board of commissioners first discussed the matter earlier this year, work has been going on behind the scenes, but not much has been done publicly. However, with the end-of-the-year deadline approaching, that's beginning to change.
Reggie Timberlake, the county's surveyor, presented the commissioners, at their Aug. 29 meeting at the judicial complex in English, with several proposals, after being requested to do so by District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius.
Each of the four districts must have contiguity, meaning they must be comprised of lands that aren't divided by another district, and preserve existing precincts. Plus, their populations should be as equal as possible, with a goal of having a population deviation of less than 10 percent.
The makeup of the current districts are:
District 1: Jennings 1, Jennings 2, Whiskey Run 1 and Whiskey Run 2
District 2: Liberty 1, Liberty 2, Sterling 1, Sterling 2 and Sterling 3
District 3: Johnson 1, Johnson 2, Patoka 1 and Patoka 2
District 4: Boone, Ohio 1, Ohio 2, Union 1 and Union 2
"I don't think we're going to get to 10, are we?," Randy Gilmore, president of the board, asked.
"Yep, I've got one that does," Timberlake answered.
The makeup of that proposal, which features a proposed population deviation of 8.96 percent, is:
District 1: Jennings 1, Whiskey 1 and Whiskey 2
District 2: Liberty 1, Liberty 2 and Sterling 3
District 3: Johnson 2, Patoka 1, Patoka 2, Sterling 1 and Sterling 2
District 4: Boone, Jennings 2, Johnson 1, Ohio 1, Ohio, 2, Union 1 and Union 2
Another proposal, Timberlake said, comes close, with a population deviation of 10.34 percent.
Other proposals he presented had population deviations of 12.36 percent, 13.37 percent and 13.67 percent.
Timberlake asked District 3 Commissioner Jim Schultz if he had been able to come up with a combination that was at 10 percent or below.
"No, probably not 10," Schultz answered.
Although the commissioners have until the end of the year to redraw the districts, Timberlake said, with next year's county council and school board elections looming, the sooner they are set, the better.
"I think this is one of those things that everybody would like to put to rest pretty quick so decisions can be made and everybody can move on," he said.
There was discussion about whether an election could be challenged, if the commissioners opted for a proposal with a population deviation above 10 percent when a combination at or below 10 percent had been an option. County attorney John E. Colin, however, said 10 percent is just a guideline.
"If it's anything other than complete equal, there's always an argument to be made, but, I think what you've found in court cases across the state is, where there's been a good faith effort to try to narrow that thing down just about as close as you possibly can, that seems to be upheld," he said, noting there are other things that are requirements, such as not crossing precinct boundaries.
"The only direction statutorily is it says districts must contain as nearly as possible equal population," Colin added.
Just as Republicans, by virtue of controlling the Statehouse, pretty much controlled redrawing the state legislative and U.S. congressional districts, Democrats, who occupy two of the three seats on the board of commissioners, will determine the local redistricting.
Whitney Timberlake, who is chairman of the Crawford County Republican Party and Reggie Timberlake's son, was in attendance and later said the proposal with a population deviation of 8.96 percent appears to be a good option.
"We are looking for a mix, and I feel like the option under 10 percent is as (contiguous) as any other," he said. "The compact is really hard to do; our main goal there is just to have them look as reasonable as possible."
The commissioners likely will address the matter again at their next meeting.
"Maybe we can get this settled by next month," Crecelius said.
The commissioners' next meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 26, at the judicial complex. They will meet in public session at 9 a.m., following a closed executive session at 8.