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Redistricting by Legislature catches candidate unawares

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GREENFIELD — Libertarian Kim Brand’s name will be on the general election ballot for Indiana House District 53 come Nov. 6. But if he defeats longtime incumbent Bob Cherry, he likely won’t be allowed to hold the seat because he now lives in a different district.

Redistricting put Brand’s Cumberland-area home in District 88, which is Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma’s district.

But because the deadline to challenge candidates has passed, Brand cannot switch to another race at this point.

Valerie Kroeger, spokeswoman for Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, said it’s pure speculation what would happen if Brand were to win.

“It would be up to the members of the Indiana House of Representatives to decide,” Kroeger said.

She added that the House could vote on whether Brand could hold the seat, but the situation has not happened in recent history.

Still, Brand acknowledges that his bid for the state Legislature was a long shot in the first place because he is a minor-party candidate.

This is his third attempt at securing a legislative seat; the last time was in 2004 and Cherry won easily.

Brand was surprised to hear that the district lines, redrawn last year, put him in District 88. In fact, gerrymandering was a part of Brand’s campaign platform. He says the process of changing districts with unfamiliar lines is confusing to the general public.

“It didn’t cross my mind that I would be districted differently,” Brand said. “I had no reason to believe that I was …. It would seem to me that gerrymandering has gotten to the point where it’s a real disservice to regular people, because they couldn’t predict who they would vote for and how to plan.”

In fact, Brand checked his address with an online database that still puts him in District 53. That is true for the moment – new district lines for the House go into effect with the November election. Brand said he was not told when he filed paperwork with the secretary of state that he actually would be in Bosma’s district.

The state election office leaves it up to candidates to determine what district they are to file in, Kroeger said. After that, it’s up to the general public to file a challenge to a candidate before the Aug. 24 deadline if they think a candidate has filed incorrectly.

New district lines put Hancock County residents in three different House districts. Much of the county is still in House District 53. But Buck Creek and Vernon townships are in District 88, and the western half of Sugar Creek Township is in District 57.

District lines are drawn by precinct numbers, which can be even more confusing to voters, Cherry said. The Hancock County Election Office confirmed that Brand’s precinct, Buck Creek 3, is in District 88..

Brand said if he had known his district had changed, he would have run against Bosma, who is unopposed in this year’s election.

Cherry said he also didn’t realize his opponent no longer was in his district.

“But I knew he lived real close,” Cherry said. “It’s hard to determine where those boundaries are.”

The candidates are being amiable with each other. Brand says he respects Cherry and is not opposing him for anything he’s done.

Rather, Brand says candidates should have opponents because new ideas should be presented to voters.

“Wouldn’t the electorate be better off if there was a contest of ideas that were respectful and reasoned?” Brand said.

Brand is trying to get in contact with the state election office to see what his next step should be. But election officials say his name will be on the District 53 ballot.

Brand and Cherry have exchanged emails and talked over the years. Cherry says he considers Brand a friend, and they share a lot of the same views.

Still, Cherry said he didn’t campaign strongly this year because he knew it was a long shot for Brand to win. He said the fact that Brand is no longer a district resident does not change his strategy.

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