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City-County Council receives redistricting report, continues to rebuff proposal for citizens commission

A consulting group tasked with gathering input on redistricting for the City-County Council released a report that details what residents are most concerned about as councilors prepare to enact new voting districts, though a forum series meant to solicit feedback may have skewed whiter and wealthier than Marion County in general.

The 57-page document, released by Engaging Solutions on March 9, details what the group heard from residents through nine in-person forums and one virtual forum.

There were 155 participants across all forums, according to the report, for an average of about 18 people at each event. There were also 39 comments submitted online at yourvoice2022.com.

Comments ranged from concerns about specific neighborhoods staying in the same district to drawing districts that create competitive elections. There were also some general complaints that didn’t directly relate to redistricting. In Franklin Township, for example, the report says one theme from public comments was irrelevant district boundary lines and another was there are too many liquor stores.

There were as many as 18 participants at the Center Township forum and as few as eight at three other forums.

Participants were invited to fill out a demographic survey, which had a 27% response rate.

“From the received responses we found that forum participants typically were in their 50s, had a bachelor’s degree or higher, had a median household income of $50,000 and owned their home,” the report says.

Here’s how participant demographics (in parentheses) compare to Marion County.

• Median age: 34.4 (50)

• White: 63.5% (74%)

• Black: 29.1% (17%)

• Asian: 4% (0%)

• Hispanic or Latino (any race): 11% (2.4%)

• Two or more races: 3.1% (2.4%)

• Bachelor’s degree or higher: 31% (74%)

Engaging Solutions presented its report to the council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee on March 15. During the public comment portion, Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause Indiana, continued to push for a multi-partisan citizens commission to lead the redistricting process.

“Process is always important when you’re doing the public’s business,” she said, “and it’s particularly important when that business involves elections.”

Vaughn and Common Cause have been mainstays in redistricting reform. The group formed the Indianapolis Citizens Redistricting Commission recently to produce a map and offer it as an alternative to any map developed by the council.

Council President Vop Osili, who chairs the Rules and Public Policy Committee, defended the council’s process and reiterated his stance that redistricting is the council’s responsibility.

“I appreciate the work, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside of you,” he said. “I think all of our council members do. But it is our responsibility to do this work.”

Other cities in Indiana, including Bloomington, have a citizens commission. Council members and Mayor Joe Hogsett have cited state law as the reason Indianapolis can’t establish a commission, but no one has specified what part of state law prevents it.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or email at tylerf@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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