May 2, 2017

Lawsuit Alleges Voting Rights Violation In Marion County

Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, says the lack of early voting access has become a constitutional issue, and that it violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Common Cause Indiana and two branches of the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to challenge the law that governs early voting in Marion County.

In 2008, two sites were established outside downtown Indianapolis that offered in-person early voting. But now they're gone, meaning anyone in Marion County who wants to cast an early ballot has to make the trip to a single downtown office.

Indiana law mandates that county election boards unanimously endorse early-voting locations.

Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, says the lack of access has become a constitutional issue, and that it also violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The Voting Rights Act says that you can’t apply a law in such a way that voters in some areas have much more access than others,” Vaughn says.

Vaughn says the change stands in contrast to what’s happening elsewhere.

“In all of the counties that surround Marion County, there are multiple locations, in some seven or eight locations, where voters can vote early in-person,” Vaughn says.

The lawsuit names the Marion County Election Board, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and several members of the Marion County Election Board.

In a written statement given to WFYI, Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge says the county’s election board will review the lawsuit.

Eldridge says her position remains that establishing early voting locations is “an essential component of providing meaningful and convenient access to voting for all Marion County residents."

Barbara Bolling Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, says in a press release that the Indiana NAACP "is proud to stand here today to announce this challenge because this statute is harming all voters in Marion County but having a particularly pernicious effect on voters of color.”

Vaughn says Common Cause Indiana will have to do a significant amount of research to prove that there has been a particular impact on minority voters.

To pay for that research the group launched a crowdfunding campaign on with a goal of $5,000.

The group will only receive their crowdfunding money if they reach that goal by June 1. The page says if it reaches a stretch target of $10,000, Common Cause will have enough "to finish the work and won't have to worry about doing additional fundraising."

WFIU's Becca Costello contributed to this report.

Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.


Related News

Judge orders Indiana to strike Ukrainian provision from humanitarian parole driver's license law
Economic Enhancement District for Mile Square will not be repealed
Bill effectively killing Indianapolis Blue Line gets hearing in House committee