GARY, IN — Today, Gary, Ind. resident Barbara Bolling-Williams — a long-time voting rights advocate — filed a federal lawsuit against the city’s Common Council for failing to draw new maps before the Dec. 31, 2022 redistricting deadline.
Following the decennial Census, state, county, and local governments must examine their population sizes to determine if their districts boundaries should be redrawn. In Gary, the city lost over 11,000 residents between the 2010 and 2020 counts. As a result, the current council districts have a population deviation of 24%. While the law does not require districts to be exactly equal in population, courts have held that more than a 10% deviation in district population may violate 14th Amendment equal protection.
Though the Council proposed to redraw precinct maps in three districts last year, it abandoned those efforts before the Dec. 31 deadline.
“As a proud Gary citizen for over fifty years, it’s disheartening to see the city council neglect their duty by disregarding the law and failing to create fair, equitable, and representative maps,” said Bolling–Williams. “It’s a sign to the people that their voices won’t be fairly taken into account in future elections. We deserve better.”
According to Kelsey Kauffman, who runs the website IndianaLocalRedistricting.com, only two second class cities in Indiana (cities with more than 35,000 residents) failed to redistrict last year, although several others appear to have done so improperly.
“From school boards to council members and beyond, local redistricting carries weight,” said Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana. “The council’s decision not to approve a redistricting plan will have immense implications on Gary, with local maps that are not representative of the communities they serve. We must hold our leaders accountable and demand they create maps that prioritize people over politics.”
“Every vote should count — equally,” said Linda Hanson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. “Local redistricting deserves the same kind of scrutiny as state and federal decennial redistricting. Unequal population distribution among districts skews voter representation. The 2020 Census count provides the data for local governments to bring their districts into compliance and ensure that every voter’s vote counts.”
Bolling-Williams will be represented by pro bono attorneys WIlliam Groth of the Vlink Law Firm in Indiana and Tracy Coleman, with Coleman Law Group in Gary.