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Goshen Common Council passes ordinance creating nonpartisan redistricting advisory commission

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City of Goshen

The Goshen Common Council unanimously passed an ordinance creating a nonpartisan city redistricting advisory commission Monday night.

The new commission will be made up of five voting members, each appointed by a member of the common council. Goshen’s two at-large council members, the mayor and the city attorney shall serve as the commission’s four non-voting members.

Members must be city residents and registered voters who voted in at least one of the last two elections. But they can’t be current officers in any political party, people who currently serve, have held or have run for partisan public offices in the last four years, registered lobbyists and anyone who has contributed more than $2,000 to a political candidate in the last five years.

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman proposed the ordinance as a way to make the city’s redistricting process less partisan. But it passed after several hours of debate and multiple amendments, some of which Stutsman criticized.

One stripped the restriction on precinct captains from serving on the commission, and another loosened the restrictions on political party officers.

“I think we made a lot of good changes tonight, but I am going to reiterate that this was greatly weakened by removing items 3 C and 3 D,” Stutsman said. “Those took a lot of that attempt to get rid of partisanship out of this, so I am disappointed in that change.”

The council also passed an amendment removing the restriction on immediate family members of any excluded person.

Still, Stutsman said he’s pleased the council passed the ordinance.

“But like anything we do here in this room, once decisions are made, I’m going to get on board and we’re going to figure out the best path forward,” Stutsman said. “I really appreciate the council being willing to look at this.”

And ultimate authority on redistricting still lies with the council — the new commission will just be making recommendations on how the council should draw its maps.

According to the ordinance, the commission must produce a report and recommended district maps by the council’s July 18 meeting. The commission’s recommended maps must pass by at least four votes, but all other commission actions just require a simple majority vote.

The council must act on the commission’s proposal by Sept. 19. Redistricting must be completed by Nov. 8.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.