Lawsuit Sponsored by the Priorities USA Foundation Successfully Deters Precinct Consolidation in Indiana

July 02, 2018

July 2, 2018

Lawsuit Sponsored by the Priorities USA Foundation Successfully Deters Precinct Consolidation in Indiana

Washington, DC — In the wake of a lawsuit supported by the Priorities USA Foundation, Indiana officials have been successfully deterred from implementing a precinct consolidation plan in one of Indiana’s most heavily minority counties. Last week, Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted a group of plaintiffs’ motion to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice a case filed last August that challenged an Indiana law mandating precinct consolidation in Lake County, home to the state’s second largest African-American population and largest Hispanic population. The plaintiffs in this case were the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP along with precinct committee persons and Lake County voters.

Due in part to the fact that this litigation challenged the constitutionality of the law, Lake County officials were unable to pass a precinct consolidation plan within the time required by statute. In response, the state legislature passed a law pushing off consolidation until 2019. This new legislation, in combination with the voluntary motion to dismiss granted today, means that no precinct consolidation will take place in Lake County this year.

This result is unequivocally good news for Lake County voters in the upcoming general election, as they will more than likely be able to vote in the same locations as in years past. There remains, however, a possibility that Lake County will implement a consolidation plan next year, and the Priorities USA Foundation will be monitoring all developments in the meantime.

SB 220, which was passed into law last May, required Lake County—and only Lake County—to immediately consolidate precincts containing fewer than 600 “active” voters. The result of such a process would have been a discriminatory infringement on Lake County voters’ right to vote, as many voters would have been reassigned to new polling places that were farther away, less accessible and saddled with longer lines. Of the precincts that were at risk of consolidation or elimination, more than half were located in the areas of the county with the highest concentrations of minority voters.

“This victory, though temporary, vindicates the plaintiffs’ simple request in this case: that every voter in Lake County should have equal and convenient access to the ballot box,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA Foundation. “The legislature’s cynical and discriminatory plan to make African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County travel farther and wait in longer lines in order to vote has failed—for now. Looking ahead to next year, the Priorities USA Foundation will be watching future developments in Lake County and is prepared once again to take action if necessary.”

The Priorities USA Foundation is a national non-partisan organization committed to protecting the right to vote for every American. The Foundation is also supporting lawsuits against suppressive laws and policies in Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire.