State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns.
From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County, IndyStar’s analysis found, and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.
That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people with transportation issues or busy schedules. And the results were immediate.
Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63 percent increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26 percent decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations….
Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout.
But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population….
In May, Common Cause Indiana and the NAACP’s Indianapolis chapter filed a lawsuit against the Marion County Election Board, Lawson and individual members of the Marion County Election Board, along with Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge over the lack of early voting locations in the County.
They say the state has intentionally discriminated against minorities in forming these rules.
Supported by Priorities USA Foundation, the NAACP Indiana State Conference, several precinct committee people and Lake County voters today filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana challenging a new law enacted by the Indiana State Legislature (formerly SB 220), which forces Lake County, Indiana – and only Lake County, out of Indiana’s 92 counties – to consolidate voting precincts, targeting and burdening Lake County’s substantial minority voting population with onerous and confusing changes to the voting process. If the law is not stopped, the mandatory, forced precinct consolidation will discriminate against African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County by unfairly reassigning large numbers to new polling locations, which may be difficult to access for the substantial number of voters who have mobility issues or lack access to reliable transportation, creating longer lines and decreasing the voice of these voters in local government.
In May, Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor enacted SB 220, which requires Lake County to immediately consolidate precincts containing fewer than 600 “active” voters, with limited exceptions. Lake County, which is home to the state’s second largest African-American population and largest Hispanic population, is the only county in the state required to undergo this onerous process. In the heavily minority northern portion of Lake County—made up of Gary, East Chicago, and Hammond—half of the voting precincts may be eliminated as a result of the law, while the largely White voting population outside the county lines will see no changes at all.
The complaint challenges the law on the grounds that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in its disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County. Additionally, the suit alleges that the law places an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed in the First and Fourteenth Amendments and violates the Equal Protection Clause.