PI Original Josh Kalven Friday October 24th, 2008, 1:48pm

GOP Appeals Early Voting Case To Indiana Supreme Court (UPDATED)

The Post-Tribune's John Byrne is reporting that GOP lawyers in Lake County, IN have asked the state supreme court to overturn Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider's decision earlier this week to allow early voting centers to remain open in the towns of Gary, Hammond, ...

The Post-Tribune's John Byrne is reporting that GOP lawyers in Lake County, IN have asked the state supreme court to overturn Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider's decision earlier this week to allow early voting centers to remain open in the towns of Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago:

The appeal asks the court to hold a hearing on the matter before the Nov. 4 general election, and to overturn an order by Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider to keep the locations open.

The state Supreme Court did not announce Thursday whether it would accept the case.

No big surprise here.  Yet it seems extremely unlikely that the state's high court is going to grant the Republicans' wish and discard the countless early votes already cast in these cities.

Meanwhile, here's a revealing quote from Lake County GOP Chairman John Curley:

"They set a precedent with this illegal action, and we need to get this clarified now so it doesn't start happening throughout the state," Curley said, referring to the Democratic-controlled Election Board which opened the sites over the objection of Republicans.

The "illegal action" Curley is referring to is the county's decision to open the three additional early voting sites despite the fact that they had been approved by a majority of the board.  The two Republican board members opposed the proposal and the GOP lawyers contend that state law requires a unanimous vote. But Curley overlooks Kavadias-Schneider's finding that the GOP effort to block the voting centers on the basis of a technicality itself violates both state and federal laws.  From her ruling:

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. [...]

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.

UPDATE (3:50 pm): TPM Muckraker has the latest:

The Indiana Supreme Court has declined to approve a bid by the GOP to shut down early voting centers in Democratic strongholds of a key county.

A lower court had similarly rejected the effort earlier this week. The Supreme Court ruled today that the case had to first be heard by an appeals court, rather than going straight to the state's high court as the Republican plaintiffs wanted.

Since the appeals court is unlikely to get involved before November 4th, today's ruling effectively ensures that voting will continue up until election day.

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