Commissioners to review Council districts

November 16, 2013 — By Jessica Williams

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The Wells County Election Board has narrowed down the Wells County Council redistricting to two options it deems preferable, but it will present twice that number Monday to the Wells County Commissioners.
The board made that decision Friday afternoon at what was described as an organizational meeting by Democratic member Chuck King.
The board members discussed the options before them, as well as the criteria they need to meet.
Republican member Roy Johnson and County Clerk Yvette Runkle showed preference to one of Johnson’s options and Todd Mahnensmith’s new option.
The board is scheduled to meet with the commissioners Monday, and by consensus, King, Runkle and Johnson decided to offer their preferences to the commissioners if the they ask. The election board will present essentially five different options – one is keeping the districts the same, a “status quo” option, as King described it.
King wanted to know, then, what the election board’s next steps would be if the commissioners – who have final say – hypothetically approved a redistricting option.
Johnson and Runkle said the commissioners would pass an ordinance, and then Runkle would notify the state, publish a public notice to notify registered voters of their new districts, and then prepare for next year’s primary and general elections.
All four of the options board members plan to present Monday meet four of the five requirements established by case law.
The requirement the options haven’t meant is keeping the townships together. Runkle said the way Wells County is split, that isn’t possible.
“Any of the four options is an improvement,” added Johnson, “in terms of approaching equality.”
Redistricting was put on the table following a report on the p,roduct of research from DePauw University. The report said Wells’ current population deviation is 30 percent, while the state standard is 10 percent.
In other business, the board discussed voting centers for the first time in months.
Runkle said the next step is to determine where the voting centers would be located. The discussion primarily focused on the northern and southern portions of the county, as board members said they are still looking at the 4-H Park as the Bluffton location.
Concerns that were discussed included the ability to handle an increase in voters and being handicapped accessible.
Runkle said after talking with other counties that have gone to voting centers, other clerks have suggested writing the plan to require more centers for presidential elections.
Also, King said he wanted to get the IT department involved in the process soon.

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