Johnson County’s two cities have hired an Indianapolis law firm to guide them through city council redistricting.
The Franklin and Greenwood city councils have retained the services of Kroger, Gardis and Regas, for their decennial redistricting process for their residence-based city council districts. The Johnson County Board of Commissioners worked with the firm earlier this year for the county’s redistricting process, and with the firm’s help, the population of county council districts were evenly apportioned.
The work is headed up by Brian Bosma, an attorney and former speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives who has had experience with redistricting on the statewide level.
Both cities and all other towns that have residency-based districts are required to redistrict by Dec. 31. Whiteland officials have also begun the process of redistricting but have not hired outside help to reshape districts.
Towns like Bargersville and Edinburgh that only have at-large town council members don’t have to redistrict, as the process exists to uphold the one-person, one-vote principle by creating districts that are roughly equal in population.
Last week the Greenwood city council passed a resolution officially starting the process, setting the guidelines for redistricting and appointing city council president Mike Campbell as redistricting coordinator.
Each of the numbered districts should have an ideal population size of 10,638, a number determined by the city’s 2020 Census population: 63,830, according to city documents.
The guidelines adopted by the council say there should be a standard deviation of 5% or lower among the districts. Case law from various redistricting challenges over the years has set a standard of 10% or lower. However, it is better for districts to be more equal if possible, Bosma said.
The firm and Campbell have a big task, as the city’s residency-based districts have a current standard deviation approaching 50%.
The new maps can account for newly annexed areas, but can’t go based on an estimate of future population growth. By law, the city is required to use only 2020 census data. So, the firm plans to include newly annexed areas in the districts, but the firm still must go by 2020 population data for those areas, Bosma said.
“If we’re looking at the map and we see you have a large agricultural area that your redistricting coordinator, or someone else, is aware is going to be developed pretty soon, you can’t allocate anything there but you can put it with a district that might have a lower standard deviation with the knowledge that it might very well pick up the difference,” Bosma said.
Franklin began the redistricting process two weeks ago, when the city council hired the firm and appointed council member Anne McGuinness to serve as the council’s redistricting coordinator.
Franklin districts have an ideal population of 5,063, which is one-fifth of the city’s 25,315 population, city documents say.
Franklin’s growth in the last years was slower than Greenwood’s but the council began the process to make the standard deviation between districts as low as possible. Each district should have close to 321 more people compared to 10 years ago, based on population growth, McGuinness said.
Working with Bosma, McGuiness is aiming to present the council maps with a standard deviation of less than 5%, per the resolution passed by the council. The overarching goal, though is to make the maps as equal as possible, she said.
Population growth has been steady around the city, but districts on the east and west sides of the city would likely see the most change, based on where new homes have been built in the last decade, she said.
Members of the public will have the option to give their input, in the form of written comments and objections, on any part of the redistricting process. This includes both the adoption of guidelines and any draft plans for both cities, Bosma said.
The first step is to accept public comments on redistricting guidelines, which are identical for both cities. Copies of the redistricting plan are available on both city websites or can be requested at city clerk offices.
The deadline to make a comment on Franklin’s guidelines has already passed, but comments can still be made for Greenwood’s guidelines until noon on Aug. 12.
Next, the public will have the opportunity to submit an alternative plan for redistricting. The councils will consider alternative plans that are submitted along with the plan made by their representative and Bosma during a public hearing.
Anyone who wishes to make their own plan for redistricting should use the following guidelines, which have been adopted by both cities:
- Districts must be composed of contiguous territory;
- Districts must be reasonably compact;
- Districts must be composed, as close as possible, of equal population based on 2020 federal decennial census data;
- Districts should conform to existing precinct boundary lines, except as allowed by the city’s redistricting guidelines;
- Districts should not intentionally dilute the voting strength of any language or racial minority group.
Residents can pick up a plan submission kit from their city’s clerk’s office to participate. Plans are due a few days prior to the public hearing; for Franklin, the deadline is Aug. 26, for Greenwood, the deadline is Sept. 14.
Plans and comments on redistricting should be submitted to city clerks. For Greenwood, residents should visit or mail comments to the Office of the City Clerk during normal business hours at 186 Surina Way, Suite C, Greenwood, Ind., 46143. For Franklin, comments should be directed to the Office of the Clerk-Treasurer at 70 E. Monroe St., Franklin, Ind. 46131.
Both cities will approve their new council district boundaries over the course of two readings. The first reading and public hearing for Franklin will be held on Sept. 5, with the second reading and passage to take place Sept. 19, both meetings are at 6 p.m. at Franklin City Hall. For Greenwood, the public hearing will be Sept. 19 and the second reading will be Oct. 3, at 7 p.m., at the Greenwood City Center.
This story was co-written by editor Leeann Doerflein and reporter Noah Crenshaw, who are, respectively, the Franklin and Greenwood reporters.