Letter to the Editor

Making all votes equal goal of redistricting

Friday, November 18, 2011

To the Editor:

Your Nov. 10 article, "Commissioners redraw council districts," reports on the completion of the redistricting process for the county commissioners and council, which is required every 10 years. Like other cities, the City of Greencastle will need to redistrict next year. (Cities did not redistrict this year because of municipal elections.)

County and city councils, however, are not the only local governing bodies that are required to redistrict. School boards that are elected using "single-member electoral districts" are also required to redistrict on the basis of population every 10 years. Their deadline is Dec. 31 of this year.

Two of Putnam County's four school districts have "single-member electoral districts," North Putnam and South Putnam School corporations. The North Putnam School Board is particularly malapportioned, the largest of its six single-member districts (Floyd Township) having five times as many residents as the smallest (Russell Township).

Failing to redistrict by Dec. 31 will make these two school corporations vulnerable to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits; such lawsuits could also negate votes taken by the school board if its members were elected from unlawfully apportioned districts.

If the North and South Putnam school boards don't want to reconfigure their districts, they have an alternative. They can change to "residential school board districts." That is what Cloverdale schools use.

With residential districts, school board candidates must live in various "residential districts," but all members of the board are elected at-large. (Greencastle's board is appointed and thus it is exempt from redistricting.)

I would like to thank the students in my Honor Scholars class at DePauw last spring who did the research on local redistricting that led not only to the first redistricting of the Putnam County Council in 40 years, but also to redistricting this year by many other county councils throughout the state.

The principle that everyone's vote should be given equal weight is an important one in our democracy. They should be proud of their work.

Kelsey Kauffman