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North Putnam board to discuss plans for redistricting tonight

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BAINBRIDGE -- North Putnam superintendent Dan Noel said Wednesday the school board intends to address redistricting at the monthly meeting on Thursday night.

The ACLU sued North Putnam last month for allegedly failing to allow each voter to have an equal opportunity to elect board members.

At the Bainbridge Town Council meeting on Wednesday Noel addressed the issue publicly for the first time.

He said there will be an executive session of the North Putnam School Board on Thursday prior to the regular board meeting, during which they intend to discuss the issue and go over the school's options.

Noel said the board's attorneys have met with ACLU attorneys and begun discussion possible plans for redistricting.

It appears likely the school board will choose to either continue the system of having single-member electoral districts and redraw the division lines for those districts, or transition to a new residential district system.

In the past, including last week's election, voters in each of the corporation's townships voted only on members of that township to represent them.

Because the townships have unequal populations, voters in smaller townships have a stronger vote than voters in larger townships.

According to the 2010 census, Russell Township, the corporation's smallest, has a population of 823.

Floyd, the corporation's largest, has a population of 4,011.

Each vote in Russell counts for 0.122 percent of the vote, in Floyd each vote is 0.025 percent -- about five times less.

Using single-member electoral districts, the board is required to redraw district lines prior to the next election following each census, a process North Putnam has not done in several decades.

If the board maintains this system, these district lines would no longer be tied to townships.

The other likely scenario is for the board to adopt residential districts.

This would allow all voters in the corporation to vote on members from each of the six districts.

Using residential districts would allow North Putnam to continue having a single board member represent each of the six townships: Russell, Franklin, Jackson, Clinton, Monroe and Floyd.

Noel said the council will meet with ACLU attorneys during the executive session and he hopes they will emerge with a solution.

The executive session, which is not a public meeting, begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Roachdale Elementary.

The regular session, which is a public meeting, begins at 7 p.m. and will occur at the Roachdale Elementary media center.

Once a plan is implemented, Noel said he intends to host a public meeting in each area township to discuss the resolved issue.

The North Putnam School Board has been aware of the issue since at least the end of 2011 and failed to act prior to the 2012 election.

South Putnam and Cloverdale, each in a similar situation, resolved the issue last year by switching to residential districts.

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