The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN DANIEL TINDER
The United States Constitution and various laws of the State of Indiana seek to insure that each person's vote has equal weight. Unfortunately, this noble and democratic concept is often strained in practice. This case illustrates how the reality of political pragmatism, if unchecked, can endanger this fundamental concept of equality. This court treads carefully into this arena, given the principles of federalism and the separation of powers on which our republican form of government is founded. Nonetheless, this court must adjudicate the case and controversy before it. If this court failed to act, some of the voters of Vigo County, Indiana would be in danger of losing the equality of voting promised to them by law.
The County Council of Vigo County, Indiana consists of seven members, three of whom are elected at large and four of whom are elected from single-member districts. In 1974, the Vigo County Commissioners (the Commissioners) adopted an ordinance creating four County Council districts (the 1974 Plan).
The Plaintiffs are six registered voters residing in Vigo County and a political organization which has sponsored candidates for election to the Vigo County Council in the past, and which intends to sponsor such candidates in the 1994 election.
The Commissioners did not attempt to redistrict Vigo County
until after the Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging that the 1974 Plan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the Plaintiffs contended that the 1974 Plan was unconstitutional because it contained an excessive population deviation.
Based upon the 1990 census, the population of Vigo County is 106,107. Therefore, the ideal population n4 for each of the four County Council districts is 26,527. When the Plaintiffs filed this action, the population of the four county council districts under the 1974 Plan and based upon 1990 census data was:
District 1 28,613
District 2 25,289
District 3 21,502
District 4 30,703
Based upon these population figures, the 1974 Plan represents approximately a 37% total deviation
from the 26,527 ideal-population figure.
In response to the Plaintiffs' lawsuit, the Commissioners admitted
that the 1974 Plan violated the Equal Protection Clause, and redistricted Vigo County on June 21, 1993 (the June 21 Plan). The June 21 Plan reflects the Commissioners' first effort to redistrict Vigo County since 1974. The June 21 Plan was codified under Vigo County Ordinance No. 93-1-3-3, and contained a total population deviation of 8.41%. The Commissioners achieved the results in this Plan by employing John Hanley, who had been involved in drawing the boundaries for elections in Terre Haute and Vigo County since approximately 1940. The Commissioners directed Hanley simply to reduce the population deviation below 10%. That was the only criterion Hanley received.
The Plaintiffs responded to the June 21 Plan by amending their complaint, alleging that the June 21 Plan violated the Equal Protection Clause because the Commissioners did not make a good faith effort to create districts with the smallest population deviation possible. The Plaintiffs' amended complaint also contained a state-law claim, alleging that the Commissioners violated Indiana Code § 36-2-3-4(a) and (d), which require that counties be divided into four contiguous, single-member districts that (1) are compact, subject only to natural boundary lines; (2) do not cross precinct boundary lines; (3) contain, as nearly as possible, equal population; and (4) include whole townships, except when a division is necessary for redistricting.
Responding to the amended complaint, the Commissioners went back to Hanley and directed him to try to get the deviation lower. Hanley went back to his data and eventually got the deviation down to 3.8%. Subsequently, the Commissioners adopted a revised version of Ordinance No. 93-1-3-3 on August 23, 1993 (the August 23 Plan) based on Hanley's revisions, resulting in a total population deviation of 927, or 3.8%.
The hearing on the request for a Preliminary Injunction was combined with the trial on the merits. The trial was held on August 27, 1993.
A. Jurisdiction Over Federal Constitutional Claim
This court has jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' federal constitutional claim under Article III, section 2 of the United States Constitution and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3)-(4).
B. Supplemental Jurisdiction Over State-Law Claim
This court has supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' state claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
The Plaintiffs' federal and state claims involve a common nucleus of operative facts. Indiana law requires that a lawful redistricting plan be in place by December 31, 1993 in preparation for the upcoming County Council district elections which will take place in November 1994. Ind. Code § 36-2-3-4(f) (Burns Supp. 1993). Therefore, it is in the interests of judicial economy, convenience, and fairness for this court to exercise its discretionary supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' state-law claim. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966). The Commissioners do not challenge the Plaintiffs' standing to bring this action.
A. The Equal Protection Clause Requires Voting Districts to be as Close in ...