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November 14, 2012

New Albany to vote on redistricting plan Thursday

Appropriations for street, police departments also on agenda

NEW ALBANY — Fundamental for elections, a new redistricting plan will be introduced for initial votes during Thursday’s New Albany City Council meeting.

As legally required, the body is tasked with reforming the city’s six council districts based on population following a U.S. Census, the latest of which was taken in 2010. The council must have the redistricting plan passed or amended by the end of the year.

District boundaries determine who votes in what races in elections, as a new map could mean a person is represented by a different council member.

Redistricting in New Albany has resulted in sometimes contentious debates and even legal battles. A group filed a lawsuit against the council over what they claimed was improper redistricting standards, though the case never received a ruling as a committee was formed in 2008 to propose new boundaries.

However, the plan submitted by the  redistricting committee — which consisted of council members, plaintiffs of the lawsuit and residents — was voted down by the council.

Councilman Dan Coffey was an outspoken opponent of that plan, as he accused members of the redistricting committee of attempting to “gerrymander” the districts for political gain.

Those accusations were strongly renounced by members of the committee.

Districts deviated by as many as 518 voters during last year’s municipal election, as the boundaries were based on a 2007 plan instead of the redistricting committee’s proposal.

Some members of that committee said the 2007 plan would not have passed legal scrutiny had it been challenged in court.

But the plan set to be voted on Thursday isn’t expected to cause as much debate. An uneventful public hearing was held on the plan in September, and Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede will introduce it for the first two of three readings.

“I feel like it’s really fair for everybody,” Zurschmiede said.

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