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