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Lawsuit challenges Anderson local government for failure to redistrict before deadline

Published on in Government, Local News, Politics
A new lawsuit alleges the Anderson City Council failed to draw new redistricting maps before the 2022 deadline — a violation of state and federal law. (Jessica Whittle Photography/Flickr)

A new lawsuit alleges the Anderson City Council failed to draw new redistricting maps before the 2022 deadline — a violation of state and federal law.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Indiana, Common Cause Indiana, Anderson-Madison County NAACP and two individual voters.

Julia Vaughn is the executive director of Common Cause Indiana — a lobbying organization focused on voting rights and election issues. She said the current map does not properly or equitably represent residents within its districts.

“People in the overpopulated district have less voting strength in city elections than the people in the underpopulated districts,” Vaughn said. “So what our lawsuit seeks to do is simply ensure that all voters in Anderson have the same say in their local elections.”

Vaughn said this upholds the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. She explained that making Anderson more equitable for voters would mean one person to one vote, and not bearing the weight of overpopulated or underpopulated districts.

The deadline for redistricting under state law was Dec. 31, 2022. Vaughn said there is very little oversight of the redistricting process, which means it’s often up to outside organizations to hold the government accountable in redistricting situations.

“So, unfortunately, outside of litigation, no, there’s very little oversight of this and it’s really easy for local governments to get away with just punting on this fundamental responsibility that they have to their voters,” Vaughn said.

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Vaughn said the lawsuit is not asking for election results from earlier this year to be undone – she said the organizations are simply pushing for change moving forward.

“So what we’re asking for is that next year, during the regularly scheduled state and federal elections, that municipal candidates run under the newly drawn districts,” she said.

Vaughn said her organization filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Gary earlier this year. She explained there are many places in Indiana where these redistricting problems arise.

“Now, it’s usually not very well done at the local level, just like it’s not well done at the state level,” she said. “It’s controlled by politicians. And that’s one of the problems.”

Vaughn said a new redistricting map would ideally include lots of community input.

“We’re hopeful that we can work with community organizations in Anderson to really have a discussion in the community about what new districts should look like, what neighborhoods should be kept together, which should be kept apart, and really have maps that are done for community purposes, not political purposes,” she said.

Vaughn said she encourages voters to engage with their local government and ensure they do their due diligence with redistricting.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.