PI Original Josh Kalven Wednesday October 22nd, 2008, 12:50pm

Superior Court Rules Against GOP In NW Indiana (UPDATED)

Just got word that Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider ruled against the Republicans' attempt to shut down the additional early voting centers in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago, IN. From her 24-page ruling:

The Lake County Board of Elections and ...

Just got word that Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider ruled against the Republicans' attempt to shut down the additional early voting centers in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago, IN.   From her 24-page ruling:

The Lake County Board of Elections and Registration is hereby enjoined from terminating the operation of in person absentee voting currently being conducted in the offices of the Clerk of the Lake Circuit Court in the courthouse buildings in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago and the offices of the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration in Crown Point.

It is further ordered that all ballots that have already been cast at the early voting locations in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Crown Point shall not be invalidated except for instances of voter fraud.

While the Republicans are likely to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, this would seem to bring the lengthy early voting dispute in Lake County to a close.

UPDATE: Here's CBS 2's report.  You can view the full ruling here and download it here.

UPDATE II: Here's a statement from SEIU President Andy Stern:

“This is another great victory for the hard-working families of Indiana and it’s encouraging news for the nation as a whole,” said Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Our country is at a critical point in history this election. The stakes could not be higher. When the economy is collapsing, Hoosiers are losing their healthcare, losing their jobs and even losing their homes, everyone needs a fair chance to make their voices heard.”

UPDATE III: As we laid out in our original post on this dispute -- way back on October 4 -- the Republicans argued that because the Lake Co. Board of Elections had not approved the three additional early voting centers by a unanimous vote, the county could not open them.  In her ruling, Kavadias-Schneider writes that such "technicalities" should not obstruct the fundamental right to vote:

22. Indiana courts routinely interpret the election laws to ensure that the maximum number of legitimate voters will be cast and counted, despite technical violations. [...]

23. Early voting is proceeding and votes are being cast in Lake County.  To stop voting now on the basis of an alleged technical irregularity (that only a majority of the Board of Elections voted to establish the voting locations) would contravene the very purpose of the election laws and the longstanding judicial principle of construing elections laws to broaden, not restrict, the franchise.

Kavdias-Schneider also contends that denying early voting access in the three towns would violate federal law:

28. Providing early voting in the community of Crown Point, with an overwhelming white population, and denying accessible early voting to the majority of Lake County's African-American and Latino residents, would violate Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

29.  Section 20 of the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits any political subdivision from enacting or employing any "standard, practice, or procedure ... in a manner which results in denial or abridgment of any right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."

Finally, her honor took an axe to the GOP lawyers' argument that allowing early voting to proceed in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago would "dilute" the vote:

36. Vote dilution occures because one jurisdiction has been allocated a much greater number of registered voters than another jurisdiction.

37. Vote dilution does not occur when voters turn out within a properly drawn jurisdiction.

38. Curly Plaintiff's allegations of "vote dilution" have no merit because the votes of Mr. Curley and Mr. Brown will in no way be "diluted" by the casting of early ballots of other validly registered voters, any more than if they had cast those ballots on election day.  The casting of ballots by other lawfully registered voters within the relevant jursidiction is democracy, not vote dilution.

Love that last sentence.

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