The so-called “polar vortex” hitting the Midwest over the past few days is
also putting the freeze on a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the Porter
County Commissioners’ restructuring of County Council representative
LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos was to hear the case
today at 9 a.m. but LaPorte County Government had announced that all offices
will be closed today “due to severe weather.”
Last week, County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and four residential
voters living in precincts who had their districts flipped from District 2
to District 4 as a result of County Ordinance 13-17, contended that the
Commissioners had not set the new boundaries in compliance with Indiana law.
The plaintiffs question the boundaries of Westchester Precinct 17, which was
included in District 2, but the precinct’s cut off. Part of it is now
detached from the other precincts and is completely surrounded by precincts
Portage 6 and Westchester 11 in District 1.
The suit was filed by attorney Ed Hearn of Johnson & Bell in Crown Point,
who said that Indiana law states that the County Commissioners must divide
the four County Council districts with contiguous boundaries and therefore
their ordinance approved on Dec. 17 is invalid under Indiana law.
Hearn said this morning that Alevizos granted his clients’ request to hear
case before candidate filing began in Porter County on Wednesday, Jan. 8,
but the hearing will now have to be rescheduled. He said he will put in a
request for the judge to hear the case as soon as possible.
If the judge rules that Ordinance 13-17 is invalid under the law, Hearn said
he will ask that Porter County then revert back to the previous
redistricting ordinance. That would allow Rivas to run in District 2, which
he currently represents on the County Council.
It might cause some upheaval depending on how many people living in those
districts that were flipped file for a County Council seat, said Hearn who
mentioned conflicts would be based on the ruling by the judge.
“We hope to get this resolved as soon as possible,” Hearn told the
Chesterton Tribune today.
The soonest the Commissioners could redistrict would then be in 2015 because
Indiana law forbids County Council redistricting to be done in an
even-numbered year during County elections, Hearn said.
The Commissioners have retained an outside attorney from Indianapolis to
Meanwhile, the Porter County Voters Registration office said candidate
filing will proceed as scheduled for tomorrow with the new boundaries in
“We’re going to carry on our business in the usual way,” said Democratic
Director Kathy Kozuszek in the Voters Registration office.