Tag Archives: Marion County

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.

 

John Sweezy, R.I.P.

Last Tuesday, I got a text from an old friend telling me that John Sweezy had died.

The name John Sweezy won’t be a familiar one to most of the people reading this blog, but for many years, John headed the Republican Party in Marion County, Indianapolis, Indiana. John served as the Republican County Chair for twenty-eight years, and during those years, the local GOP dominated Indianapolis’ political life. Much of that political success was a result of his meticulous attention to grass-roots organization: making sure that each precinct had a committee-person who polled their neighborhoods and used the information to turn out the vote on election day.

Politicians today could learn an important lesson from that grass-roots emphasis, because those regular Republican victories under John’s management were despite the fact that registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans 3 to 2. (John used to say he was so grateful that “Democrats don’t vote.”)

But there was another, important reason so many people (even friends of mine who were Democrats) voted Republican. John consistently threw party support to competent, sensible candidates–people who understood municipal governance and wanted to do it well. He had nothing good to say about the then-emerging Christian Taliban, and he welcomed women and minority volunteers and candidates.

I know, because I was one of those women. I had been an active volunteer, working for Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut, among others, when Hudnut decided to appoint me Corporation Counsel. No woman had previously held that position. John was supportive–in more ways than one. Not only did he approve of Bill’s choice to place a relatively young (33) woman at the head of the city’s legal department, he did something that now, in the wake of serial scandals, seems prescient: in a private conversation, he identified the men I should avoid being alone with! Later, when I ran for Congress, he was incredibly supportive.

I still remember a number of John’s favorite sayings. My own favorite was his mantra–and firm belief– that “Good government is good politics.”

He used to say that every citizen should be required to work for government for two years, and prohibited from staying in government for more than four. It was his way of acknowledging the problems government faces when citizens are ignorant of the operation of their government and the issues involved in managing a city or state–and the sclerosis that sets in when too many people have been in office too long. (John had trained as a mechanical engineer, and had served a stint as Indianapolis’ Director of Public Works, so his attitude was informed by experience.)

Later, when the GOP stopped being the party I had worked for, the party of people like John Sweezy, I became a Democrat, and only rarely saw or spoke to John. It was my loss. (Once, after he read a particularly snarky column I’d written, John called me to say he disagreed with my point, but that he still “appreciated” me. We made vague plans to have lunch “soon,” but somehow that never happened. My fault for letting the minutiae of everyday life interfere with the importance of friendship.) Now he’s gone–and so is the party he served so well.

I miss them both. R.I.P.

 

Where Have All the Women Gone??

Remember the folk song that began “Where have all the flowers gone?” Well, I want to know where all the women candidates have gone. My specific question is: where are the women candidates slated by the parties to run for the Indianapolis City-County Council?

There are 25 districts remaining since the Republicans in the General Assembly eliminated the 4 at-large seats held by Democrats.

The Republicans slated seven women. The Democrats slated only five.

As a mere girl, my math skills are understandably weak, but I believe women are over 50% of the voting public. The Republicans slated women for fewer than 30% of the seats; the Democrats–presumably the party of inclusion and women’s rights–slated women in only 20%.

Worse still, each party refused to slate an incumbent woman who’d been effective and hard-working, but difficult for party bosses to control; the Republicans unceremoniously dumped Christine Scales, who had angered her GOP cohorts by demonstrating independent judgment and a willingness to work across the aisle, and the Democrats decided that LeRoy Robinson–who no longer had an at-large seat and needed to “be taken care of”–should get priority over Angela Mansfield, who has ably represented District 1.

Both women had put the interests of their constituents above partisanship. (Isn’t that just like a woman?!)

Bless their little hearts, those girls didn’t listen to their manly betters, and they needed to be removed.

Message sent and received–and isn’t the bipartisanship of that message encouraging?

No wonder more women don’t run for office.