Local Government Redistricting: The Forgotten Mandate
Most local governments are required by Indiana state law and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution to redistrict.
2022 Redistricting Update WHICH INDIANA LOCAL GOVERNMENTS REDISTRICTED AFTER THE 2020 CENSUS? WHICH DID NOT?
Just like state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, many local governments in the United States have elected councils or boards that are required to redistrict once a decade, usually the year after the decennial census. In Indiana, that includes all county councils, city councils and any school boards that use “electoral districts.”
Ten years ago, my students at DePauw University and I discovered that most Indiana counties had failed to redistrict their county councils as they were required to do in the year after the 2010 census. We created the IndianaLocalRedistricting.com website, launched in February 2013, to document that failure. In its wake, approximately one-third of the counties that had failed to redistrict did so later that year.
We also realized that almost none of the state’s approximately 250 school boards had redistricted, primarily because no one in the state—not the Indiana Department of Education, nor the state Elections Division, nor the Indiana School Board Association, nor the county clerks, indeed, not even the school boards and superintendents—knew which boards had “electoral districts,” and thus were required to redistrict, and which did not
In September 2021, one of my former DePauw students, Sarah Anderson Hannan, and I began tracking redistricting of Indiana county councils after the 2020 census. In what turned out to be a much more daunting task, we also sought to determine for the first time which school boards in the state used which type of selection process, to notify those boards that were required to redistrict, and then to track their responses.
The Results are in!
COUNTIES Of the 91 Indiana counties required to redistrict their county councils in 2021,* 49 redistricted and appear to have done so in accord with key legal requirements—that is, with a population deviation less than 10%, districts that are compact, contiguous, and no split precincts. An additional 15 had population deviations close to 10%. However, 23 failed to redistrict or clearly violated key legal requirements.** [See Table 1] *One county, Marion, which is coterminous with Indianapolis, redistricts with Indiana municipalities in 2022. **As of February 13, 2022, we are missing data for four counties.
SCHOOL BOARDS Of the 254 public school boards in 88 of Indiana’s counties (excluding for the moment the four largest counties—Allen, Lake, Marion, and St. Joseph, which we have not yet finished), we found only 31 that used electoral districts and thus were required to redistrict. Of these, 10 altered their method of electing board members in 2021 by voting to move from electoral districts to residential districts, which means that they are exempt from redistricting. Four already met all the requirements and did not have to redistrict; four more redistricted and did so properly. However, as of February 12, 2022, eleven school boards that are required to redistrict have done nothing. (We are still uncertain about two other boards.) [See Table 2]
Electoral vs. Residential Districts
Electoral Districts: At least some members of the board are required to live in different parts of the school corporation (e.g., different townships or town) and only those voters who live in that same part of the school corporation vote for those candidates.
Residential Districts: At least some members of the board are required to live in different parts of the school corporation, but all voters in the school corporation vote on all candidates.
For the first time, we now have reasonably good data on what methods Indiana School Boards use to select members in 88 of its counties (for the time being, excluding the four largest counties):
81% (205) have residential boards (including 10 boards that are currently in the months-long process of changing to residential boards)
8% (21) have electoral boards
6% (14) are elected at-large with board members able to live anywhere within the school corporation boundaries
4% (10) are appointed
2% (4) use another method or undetermined
Table 3 lists all school boards in the state by county and their board member selection process. [See Table 3]
Please note: We are certain that we have made mistakes on this list. We learned the hard way that many school superintendents and their boards, and many county elections officials did not know which system their own school boards used. Thus, we checked with multiple sources for every school board and frequently resorted to examining election data from 2018 and 2020 to reconcile differences in opinion. To help us develop a more accurate census of boards, we invite feedback from visitors to this site via IndianaLocalRedistricting@gmail.com
Our thanks to all the awesome county clerks and elections clerks who patiently helped us throughout this research.
Our thanks as well to the hundreds of school employees and board members who responded to our questions and our apologies to those school board members and superintendents who suddenly found out that their boards were legally required to redistrict in the midst of one of the most stressful school years in memory.
A huge shout-out to former DePauw students, Richard and Nate Walsh, for hosting and maintaining this website for the past ten years and cheerfully responding to all our requests for assistance.
Finally, heartfelt thanks to Sarah Hannan for reprising her role from 10 years ago by spending all last fall calling and corresponding with school boards, superintendents and county clerks across the state, ascertaining which school corporations had what kind of board, and suggesting how they might proceed if they were required to redistrict. This update would not have been possible without her.
Next up are Indiana towns and municipalities, many of which are required to redistrict this year. Then onward to 2031!