Southern Indiana

Floyd County officials from both major political parties are speaking out against the county’s new council district map.

The Floyd County Commissioners redraw the map for the seven-seat county council every 10 years. The county is divided into four districts, which get one seat each, and there are three at-large seats.

The most significant changes in this year’s process happened in Districts 1 and 4. Previously, District 1 comprised most of New Albany, while District 4 included rural and suburban communities like Georgetown and Greenville.

“These are really some of the most square, straight-line boundaries with mapping that we’ve had in a long time,” said Shawn Carruthers, president of the commissioners. “Now, when you look at it compared to what they used to be, it makes it a lot easier for people running for office to know where their boundaries are.”

Franklin Township has historically been in District 4. But, in the new map, the Republican-controlled commissioners grouped it with New Albany in the more urban District 1.

Carruthers said the shift will make room for expected growth in Georgetown in the coming years.

“A lot of building is going there,” he said. “We wanted to be able to absorb that population growth in that area and make sure that we still maintain the balance in population with all the districts.”

But local officials from both sides of the aisle are speaking out against the redistricting process.

Floyd County Democratic Chair Adam Dickey said the commissioners should have drawn the map based on current populations, rather than speculating about the future.

“It’s supposed to reflect today, with the idea that in 2030 we’ll do another census and readjust those districts,” Dickey said. “Perhaps at that point, Greenville or Georgetown will have had an explosion in growth, and we’ll need to cut it even more. Or perhaps at that point, we’ll see that people have decided that they don’t want to move out to [Georgetown and Greenville].”

Prior to the new map, the populations in all four districts were nearly even. But the new District 1 now has almost 2,400 more residents than District 4. The District 1 population increased by nearly 5%, while the District 4 population decreased by nearly 7%.

Dickey said that population swing creates an imbalance in representation that could affect elections.

“We’re supposed to go into this with the idea that we’re creating equal districts, so that everyone has an equal voice, and we don’t do that [in the new map],” he said. “We nullify the voice of some and we accentuate the voice of others. And that is not a true system of fairness that we want in our democracy.”

Republicans have also criticized the new districts. At-large Floyd County Council member Connie Moon disagrees with the commissioners’ population projections, arguing that Georgetown’s infrastructure can’t handle much more growth.

Moon said New Albany and Franklin, where she lives, have different demographics, thus different needs that will be difficult to balance if they are in the same district. She said commissioners should have sought more input from council members and residents.

“They didn’t take into consideration any of our thoughts or ideas, or really even reach out,” Moon said. “We don’t want to control what they’re doing. We know it’s their job to do it. You would just think that they would ask the people who are living here.”

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.