Very Good News, For Once

The next time you see local attorney Bill Groth, buy him a drink. Hell, buy him two!

According to the IBJ, 

The Marion County Election Board unanimously approved a bipartisan proposal that would convert the county’s traditional polling places to vote centers starting with the 2019 primary election. That way, Marion County registered voters can use any of 300 vote centers, rather than only a designated polling place. The county currently has about 300 polling sites.

The proposal also expands the use of early voting in the county and creates electronic pollbooks to be used county-wide.

Several months ago, I blogged about the lawsuit brought by Groth on behalf of Common Cause, challenging the lack of satellite polling places for early voting in Marion County. Thanks to a provision of state law that requires all election board decisions to be unanimous, the Republican member of the Marion County Board was able to block the designation of any early voting sites other than the one in the Clerk’s office in the City County Building.

The meticulous petition Groth filed in the case detailed the number of early voting sites in other whiter, more Republican counties, and the comparison was devastating: for example, Hamilton County had a ratio of one early site for every 76,929 registered voters; Hendricks County had one early voting site for every 27,476 registered voters, and Johnson County had  one early voting site for every 17,924 registered voters.

Marion County? The state’s most populous county’s one inconvenient site–with parking problems– had to serve 699,709 registered voters.

According to the IBJ’s report, the Republican member of the Election Board has changed her tune, and the vote to establish vote centers and expand early voting was unanimous. The article ended with this “throw-away” observation:

The changes comes after a previous impasse over early voting in Marion County between the two major political parties.

In May 2017, Common Cause and the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Marion County’s single location for early voting provided unequal access for voters and that it was discriminatory and caused voter suppression.

“After this, therefore because of this” is a famous logical fallacy, but in this case, it’s quite obviously true. Had a good lawyer (in both senses of the word “good”–i.e., a good guy and a highly competent practitioner) not been willing to take this case pro bono, and had it not been more likely than not that he would win it, I am confident this sudden turnabout would not have occurred.

The only disappointment is, it appears from the reporting that we will still have to get through November’s election with the old rules. It will be up to all of us who recognize the incredible  importance of these midterms to get people to the polls.

After that–chalk this up to one win against voter suppression.

 

23 thoughts on “Very Good News, For Once

  1. While the prospect of more early voting sites in 2019 is good news, that still leaves Marion County with only 1 early voting site in the 2018 primary and general elections. A grassroots non-partisan group, Vote Easy Indy, has been working to get more sites in Marion County THIS year. Last night at a Community Forum co-sponsored by Women4Change, the Republican member of the election committee could not explain why she believed more early voting sites were a good idea for 2019, but not for 2018. We need to let the members of the Marion County election board, our city Councillors, and the Marion County Republican party chair know we want more early voting sites in 2018! Visit the VoteEasyIndy facebook page to join us in this effort.

  2. Just a point of information professor. The ABA Journal’s electronic Daily Newsletter for Tuesday, January 23, 2018, has an article entitled, “Pennsylvania’s top court tosses congressional map, finds state congressional violation” that you might find of inerest. [Hyperlink at http://maestro.abanet.org/trk/click?ref=z11aidwdq5_0-36d27x367fbdx06096&%5D. Full disclosure: I am a licensed member of the Pennsylvaia Bar, albeit retired, and an Indiana resident.

  3. thanks, a decent concept overlooked,and seems to streamline all the issues,into,Voting…
    gerrymandering still needs a kick in the,,,,,’,,, but we need a popular vote,since we readily see
    corrupt dark money,still playing the voter. In recent converstions with fellow workers, I must appologize for our ignorance,seems the dumbing down of America is at,a critical state… thanks Bill Groth, may your idea,spread like a wind…

  4. While I appreciate Sheila’s kind words, because the MCEB’s resolution yesterday did not provide for early in-person satellite voting sites in 2018, and my clients (Common Cause Indiana and the NAACP) were not included in the decision making process that led to this change, there was no “settlement” of our suit as far as 2018 is concerned. We will thus be filing injunction papers next week asking the federal court to restore at least two early voting sites for the 2018 general election. Stay tuned.

  5. I am now following the VoteEasyIndy facebook page. I would love to help “get out the vote” for 2018, but how? ? For the 2016 election, I called the Indiana State Democratic party HQ way ahead of November and offered to help drive voters to polling sites on election day. I called twice! I never received a call back. Is there an organization in Indianapolis that is actively registering potential Democrat voters? That will take them to the polls in November?

  6. Sounds good on the surface, but…fewer neighborhood polling places mean they will not be conveniently located for many voters. Especially seniors and disabled who already have problems getting to polling places and WE are more determined to vote than younger, able-bodied people. Public transportation is totally out of the question in this area; my polling place has limited parking (I had to park in the grass behind a medical facility and walk about 2 blocks to the end of the line), actual voting area overcrowded with tables and poll workers, none of them in good moods due to confusion. It sounds as if this new “solution” may be beneficial to some but not all Marion County voters. I can hardly rely on my Trump supporting neighbors for help…will transportation be available for those who cannot get to those vote centers. To use the medical building at East 16th and Arlington to include more voters doesn’t seem feasible due to limited space and parking. Getting to the one early voting location is totally impossible for me.

    Do I sound selfish; so-be-it! I can only control my own vote and have been able to make it on my own since 1958; now that becomes questionable in my limited future.

  7. Chalk one up for democracy!

    It appears that the state provision that all decisions by election boards must be unanimous needs to be changed to majority rule.

  8. To those of you wondering what to do to help, I suggest you contact your local precinct committee man/woman. He or she has the paperwork to set you up as a registrar and that person will be responsible for getting people to the polls. Remember ALL POLITICS is local and the more local you can get the better.

  9. The Republicans have, overall, been much better at getting the elderly and handicapped to the polls. This is something, as JoAnn points out, that needs to be addressed, if for no other reason than this is a huge voting body. Numbers count. Don’t like being negative, so I’ll just say realistically, the mess this country’s voting process is in right now does not give me much hope for 2018. Trump truly rode in on a tidal wave of great timing. I’m hoping the busy little bees there in the background similar to those busy little bees who organize those awesome women’s marches are making every moment count and we will be blown away and reminded of the country our veterans and current fighting soldiers represent and protect. They need to be proud again. So do we. Swell of patriotic music. The End.

  10. Bill Groth – I will stay tuned, as I am sure Sheila will in bringing us the latest on expanded voting sites. Go for this barely concealed form of voter suppression. There are those such as I who are cheering you from afar.

  11. I have voted absentee for several cycles. A recent exception was the 2016 primary when I held up a home made sign for Bernie Sanders and passed out his literature.

    To absentee vote by mail, you can request an application from the Marion County Election Board or download an Application for Absentee Ballot online. Absentee ballot requests must be submitted in every election; applications are not kept on file for civilian voters. When you have completed and returned the application, a ballot will be mailed to you once they are legally available.

    There are several qualifications for voting absentee, among them are:
    The qualifications for receiving an absentee ballot by mail are:

    I have a specific, reasonable expectation of being absent from the county on election day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
    I am a voter with disabilities.
    I am a voter at least 65 years of age.
    I will be confined to my residence, a health care facility, or a hospital due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
    I will be caring for an individual confined to a private residence due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
    http://www.indy.gov/eGov/County/Clerk/Election/Voter_Info/Pages/absentee_voting.aspx
    ===========================================================================
    Thank you Bill Groth. Why this change could not be implemented for the general election in 2018 seems bogus. It would seem there is more than enough time to prepare.

  12. I don’t know much about other states but in Florida where we used to vote it was made easier for those who chose the option of voting early by mail.

    Is that common in other states?

  13. Republicans have obviously tilted the field by instilling among the people who they control the fear of illegal immigrants who do terrible things to Americans, like vote. While Americans largely don’t bother, illegal immigrants flock to the polls in countless numbers and vote early and often. In fact our sort of President believes that all of those who provided Hillary’s substantial plurality were such immigrants.

    Think of what would happen if all of that negative energy was directed at positive change like making sure that every citizen qualified to vote had an option convenient for them regardless of whatever their voting handicaps were. It certainly would be easy enough to do.

    Another of the large number of reasons to vote only Ds in ’18 and’20.

  14. Thank you Bill Groth. Marion County and all Hoosiers are very fortunate to have such a smart and socially responsible advocate fighting for all of us. Bless you for fighting so many good fights.

  15. I remember polling neighborhoods in the 1960 campaign. If you found an unregistered voter, the only way to get him or her registered was to take him or her to the courthouse. We had buses following us from door to door. Lots of volunteers to knock on doors. And those were the good old days. Maybe now we can keep polling places open until 8PM so many more working people can vote. The Pubs have a long history of voter suppression and it predates race. In 1960 most blacks were assumed to be
    voting Republican. Power is just what it says – power.

  16. No excuse absentee ballots should be the rule. There was talk recently that a bill was to be introduced in this legislature session allowing just such a change. I have heard nothing since. There are numerous reasons why someone should be allowed to vote early on an absentee ballot, including work and childcare time issues. Transportation issues, whether you are elderly, ill, caring for someone who is disabled in any way or just don’t have a vehicle or access to public conveyance could be resolved easily.
    The con is that the county clerks would have to get funding to handle the increased workload.

  17. JD @ 4:42 pm , refer to my earlier post and the link. They are numerous reasons for being able to vote absentee.

  18. The most bothersome point in this story for me, is that one person, the Republican member of the Election Board, held 700,000 people of Marion County hostage in their ability to have fair and convenient voting locations.

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