Town hall addresses controversy over St. Joseph County redistricting maps
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. --- The dispute over election maps in St. Joseph County taking center stage at Monday’s town hall.
The divided county commission already voting 2-1 for a preliminary approval to a redistricting plan last week, but it’s already received heavy pushback from voters, community members, and council members.
About 70 members of the community including a county commissioner showing up at Monday’s town hall surrounding the redistricting controversy.
The new proposed map calls for dramatic changes, including removing all rural and suburban areas from district two and putting them in the other two districts.
“I’m ready to get to work to draw better maps, I’ve been ready to do this looking at multi-partisan, republican, democrat, and independent group of community members and elected officials,” said a St. Joseph County resident who spoke out against the new map proposal.
“They are not just good for republicans even though they are the party that crafted them,” added another resident in favor of the new map.
Monday’s meeting came after two St. Joseph County commissioners voted in favor, 2-1 last Tuesday for the newly proposed election maps.
Both Deb Fleming and Andy Kotiesnley voting for the plan, but republican commissioner Derek Dieter, who’s re-election chances could be hurt by the new maps was the only one to vote against the new proposal.
“I don’t think it works out well for the community and the people that speak tonight. That’s what I heard overwhelming people are not very happy from the league of women voters, to the minority community, to people who live out in New Carlisle, North Liberty, Walkerton, that when I ran for the election I won they supported me, a lot of the democrats and now that won’t happen anymore with my district going into just the city limits of South Bend,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner, Derek Dieter who represents District Two.
The election maps are revised every ten years based on the census, striving to divide the population of each district as evenly as possible into about 90,000 residents.
The new population has only increased 2.2% percent since the last revised map in 2011, and although the new proposed map is close to dividing the population up equally in each district, many at Monday’s meeting argued the map would be politically unbalanced, packing democrats and racial minorities into one group.
“In result of the map is a dilution of the minority vote in this particular district,” said another resident who spoke out against the new map.
An overwhelming majority of community members at the meeting, including Dieter and the St. Joseph County council president, were asking for commissioners to delay Tuesday’s vote to get the community involved in a new mapping process.
"The meeting was called tonight there again to have the public have an opportunity to voice their opinion on this extremely important issue,” said Rafael Morton, the President of the St. Joseph County Council.
“I don’t think they should vote tomorrow. I think they should take the time out and meet with the residents and you have a lot of educated people in the city South Bend, Mishawaka, and Granger that could help come up with better maps instead of us paying outside firms with money that could be placed in St. Joe county,” added Nancy Simone, a lifetime Resident of St. Joseph County, who spoke out against the new map.
Residents in the community including members of the St. Joseph County council said they have brought new map proposals to both Fleming and Kotiesnley who did not show up to Monday’s meeting—however they said they did not hear back.
ABC57 did reach out to the outside firm that was hired to complete the mapping process however we did not hear back.
The final vote is supposed to take place Tuesday morning at 10 am and depending on what happens litigation could follow.