Indiana polling hour law blocked by federal judge

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In this Sept. 8, 2020 photo, voting booths are kept socially distant at the Chesterfield, N.H. polling site. A majority of President Donald Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while about half of Joe Biden’s backers plan to vote by mail. That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that finds 54% of voters say they will vote before polls open on Nov. 3. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana voters are seeing another federal ruling in their favor this year.

A 2019 law regarding polling hour extensions was blocked in court this week.

This means if a problem at the polls stops you from voting, you can ask a judge to extend the hours.

“This is an important safeguard that voters must have to prevent disenfranchisement,” said Common Cause Indiana Policy Director Julia Vaughn.

In 2019, Indiana lawmakers took that right away from voters and gave it to County Election Boards instead. The board would have to vote unanimously in order to request polling hour extensions due to issues at the polls.

“The law further said that the only reason a County Election Board could petition a court to extend polling place hours would be if the polling place is actually closed at some point during the day,” said Vaughn.

Common Cause Indiana challenged this law in federal court and won. This means Hoosiers can petition for a polling hour extension for any reason such as long lines, equipment failures or running out of paper ballots.

Vaughn said this happens in Indiana and voters deserve to be able to fight it in court.

“This is not an isolated situation,” said Vaughn. “We saw just two years ago, three Indiana counties had problems significant enough that court orders were sought.”

Ami Gandhi, Senior Counsel for the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights said some groups experience voting barriers more than others.

“The research shows that black citizens, Latino citizens, and other community members who have been long disenfranchised by our voting system face particular barriers to the polls and that will be the case again for the November election,” said Gandhi.

If you encounter issues on election day, or before, you can call the non-partisan “election protection” coalition at 866-OUR-VOTE.

We reached out to the Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and the Indiana Election Division for comment on this story but have yet to hear back. The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office said it is not commenting on this matter.

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