(INDIANAPOLIS) - Five judges will rule within a month on whether Democrats who currently control the Indianapolis City-County Council can redraw the districts that were adjusted before their majority was seated.
State law requires that a panel of five judges hear cases over electoral districts, and a panel led by Marion Superior Court Judge Heather Welch listened to an hour of arguments filled mostly with legal jargon.
The judges - three Democrats and two Republicans - will rule no later than July 17 on the interpretation of the law governing council districts with which they agree.
In December 2011, one month after losing it's 16-13 majority, the lame-duck council approved a new district map based on the 2010 Census.
Mayor Ballard, also a Republican, signed it into law on New Year's Day of 2012, as state law says new districts must be "made" in the calendar year after the Census numbers are released unless it's within one year of an election, as is the case in Indy.
Shortly after Ballard approved the districts, the new council term began, giving Democrats a 16-13 majority (that majority is now 15-14 - Councilor Jose Evans switched to the Republican party in March). The Democratic-majority passed their own version of council districts late last year, which were vetoed by Ballard.
Council president Maggie Lewis and other Democrats sued, saying the law intended for the districts to be drawn during 2012, not simply signed by the mayor during the calendar year.
Bill Groth, the lead attorney for Democrats, says that was clearly the intent of the General Assembly when it wrote the law, and says that intent was affirmed when the legislature passed a law clarifying the timing of district drawing during this year's session.
David Brooks, the attorney representing the mayor, says that the law states that districts are not "made" until they are approved by the executive, in this case Mayor Ballard. Brooks also argues that even if this were not the case, another state law allows districts to be drawn any time except for the year prior to an election.
Regardless of the ruling, whichever side loses is likely to appeal to the State Supreme Court.
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