Indy Star: NAACP sues over Lake County precinct consolidation law
August 11, 2017
By Fatima Hussein
The Gary NAACP wants a federal judge to block a new law that would consolidate Lake County’s voting precincts.
The organization claims the law, formerly known as SB 220, would discriminate against the black and Latino populations in Lake County by making voting access more inconvenient.
Defendants are Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and individual members of the Indiana Election Division.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The NAACP filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana along with Priorities USA Foundation, a self-described anti-Donald Trump “progressive grassroots” group.
Together, the plaintiffs claim the law unfairly reassigns large numbers of voters to new polling locations, “which may be difficult to access for the substantial number of voters who have mobility issues or lack access to reliable transportation.” They allege that the change creates longer lines and silences “the voice of these voters in local government,” a news release states.
SB 220, enacted by the state legislature and signed into law by Holcomb, requires Lake County to immediately consolidate precincts with fewer than 600 “active” voters, with limited exceptions. More specifically, it requires the Indiana Election Commission to adopt a consolidation plan by Sept. 1.
Lake County, which is home to the state’s second-largest African-American population and largest Hispanic population, is the only county in the state required to undergo the process.
The complaint challenges the law on the grounds that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in an alleged “disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County.”
Additionally, the suit alleges that the law places an undue burden on the right to vote guaranteed in the First and 14th Amendments and violates the Equal Protection Clause.
“In Indiana, Gov. Holcomb and some members of the legislature have shown they are laser-focused on keeping African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County away from the polls,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA.
“Priorities is confident that this suit will be successful, and we are committed to protecting the right to vote wherever it is threatened.”