Judge orders election board to open 2 new early voting sites in Marion County

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A federal judge ordered Marion County to open at least two early voting sites for the November general election.

The ruling is a result of a lawsuit filed by the Indianapolis NAACP and Common Cause Indiana that claimed Marion County’s failure to establish early voting centers effectively disenfranchised voters in densely populated urban areas. The lawsuit named the Marion County Election Board as the defendant.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker noted that Marion County had multiple early voting sites in 2008 and 2009. However, those sites were discontinued in later elections.

“In view of the absence of any credible neutral and nonpartisan explanation for the board’s failure to re-establish satellite offices after 2008 and 2009…the record permits only one conclusion: [the lack of early voting centers was] partisanship motivated,” Evans wrote.

The court agreed that it would be unfeasible for the board to establish early voting centers in time for the May primary, saying it “would have thrown the board’s election preparation efforts into disarray.”

The opinion goes on to say that the public would be “ill served by last-minute upheaval and confusion in the administration of the May primary.”

Establishing voting centers for the November election would be much less of a burden on the board, the court said.

“Defendants are hereby mandated to establish two satellite voting locations…for early in-person voting in Marion County, Indiana, in time for the November 2018 general election,” the preliminary injunction said.

During the 2016 election, Marion County voters had only one site for early voting: the City-County Building downtown. Long lines greeted voters who wanted to cast their ballots in the weeks before Election Day. Voters also had to travel to downtown Indianapolis instead of a location that may have been more convenient, which proved to be a burden on some residents.

This past January, the Marion County Election Board approved changes to transition polling locations to voting centers that would allow voters to cast their ballot at any location instead of being limited to their precinct. Several of those centers would allow early voting as well.

That move was, in part, a response to the lawsuit. However, those changes won’t go into effect until 2019.