Lawsuit filed to stop Lake precinct consolidation
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent July 31, 2014 3:15PM
Updated: September 2, 2014 6:27AM
A temporary restraining order has been issued preventing the Lake County Board of Elections from taking action Friday on the small precinct consolidation plan mandated by Senate Bill 385.
Clay Patton, attorney for Lake County Democratic Party Chair John Buncich and seven other plaintiffs, just after 2 p.m. secured a temporary restraining order in Lake County Circuit Court preventing the elections board from adopting a resolution consolidating precincts as required in the Lake County specific legislation.
A hearing on the matter is set for Aug. 8.
“I was elected chairman on June 28. Two days after that I first learned of Senate Bill 385. I immediately felt it was very unfair in singling out Lake County,” Buncich said.
Consolidation of some of the smaller precincts would provide a disincentive for some residents to go to the polls and would disenfranchise those voters, especially in north Lake County, he said.
The legislation approved by the Republican-led state legislature calls for Lake County only to eliminate precincts with less than 500 voters by convening a small precinct committee meeting to come up with a consolidation plan. That plan is then to be outlined in a resolution to be approved by the election board by noon Friday. The temporary restraining order prevents those actions until the hearing.
“The Republicans said in the statehouse that Lake County is dramatically different than the rest of the state which has no precincts containing less than 500 voters,” Buncich said.
According to his findings, the party chair said 17 percent of the precincts in Hamilton County have less than 500 voters while 29 percent of the precincts in Bartholomew County have 29 percent of the precincts with less than 500 voters.
Patton said only three counties out of the 92 in the state have no precincts with less than 500 voters.
“The fact is this is special legislation. What is good for Lake County is good for the rest of the state. If this is required of all 92 counties in the state fine, but it is not,” Patton said.
Dan Dernulc, Lake County Republican Party chairman, said Thursday he had not seen any of the information yet. He declined to comment further at this time.
Michelle Fajman, elections board director, said Thursday at 4:10 p.m. that she had not yet been served the injunction and could not comment. Until the document has been served, the Friday meetings will not be cancelled.
A special meeting of the Lake County Small Precinct Committee is scheduled Friday at 9 a.m. followed immediately by a special election board meeting. The temporary restraining order prevents the elections board from taking action on the resolution Friday.
David Wickland, attorney for the Republicans on the election board, could not immediately be reached.