FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2017
Symone Sanders, Priorities USA Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Bolling-Williams, NAACP Indiana State Conference, email@example.com
THE INDIANA CONFERENCE OF THE NAACP, SUPPORTED BY PRIORITIES USA FOUNDATION, FILES SUIT AGAINST DISCRIMINATORY AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL INDIANA PRECINCT CONSOLIDATION LAW
Complaint Argues Law Forcing Precinct Consolidation in Lake County – And Only Lake County –Discriminates Against African American and Hispanic Voters
WASHINGTON, DC — Supported by Priorities USA Foundation, the NAACP Indiana State Conference, several precinct committee people and Lake County voters today filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana challenging a new law enacted by the Indiana State Legislature (formerly SB 220), which forces Lake County, Indiana – and only Lake County, out of Indiana’s 92 counties – to consolidate voting precincts, targeting and burdening Lake County’s substantial minority voting population with onerous and confusing changes to the voting process. If the law is not stopped, the mandatory, forced precinct consolidation will discriminate against African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County by unfairly reassigning large numbers 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, creating longer lines and decreasing the voice of these voters in local government.
In May, Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor enacted SB 220, which requires Lake County to immediately consolidate precincts containing fewer than 600 “active” voters, with limited exceptions. 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 this onerous process. In the heavily minority northern portion of Lake County—made up of Gary, East Chicago, and Hammond—half of the voting precincts may be eliminated as a result of the law, while the largely White voting population outside the county lines will see no changes at all.
The complaint challenges the law on the grounds that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in its disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County. Additionally, the suit alleges that the law places an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed in the First and Fourteenth Amendments and violates the Equal Protection Clause.
“All around the country, Republicans are dreaming up new ways to make it more difficult for ordinary Americans to exercise their most fundamental right,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “In Indiana, Governor Holcomb and the Republican legislature have shown that they are laser-focused on keeping African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County away from the polls. Priorities is confident that this suit will be successful, and we are committed to protecting the right to vote wherever it is threatened.”
“This lawsuit is a continuation of the NAACP’s mission to protect voting rights of all citizens generally and citizens of color particularly,” said Barbara Bolling-Williams, President of the NAACP Indiana State Conference. “Since 2005, in Indiana we have seen a barrage of voting rights attacks aimed at our communities, and the new precinct consolidation law that we are challenging today, limited solely to Lake County, is just another voter suppression attempt. We are not discouraged—in fact, as we move forward with this lawsuit we are determined to fight and determined to win.”
This lawsuit represents Priorities USA Foundation’s continued focus on defending voting rights around the country in 2017 and beyond. Since merging with Every Citizen Counts earlier this year, Priorities has redoubled its efforts to defeat several anti-voting initiatives that are currently moving through the court system and many state legislatures.
The Plaintiffs in this suit are represented by Marc Elias, Bruce Spiva, Chuck Curtis and Aria Branch of Perkins Coie LLP in Washington D.C. and Madison, Wisconsin, and Shana Levinson of Levinson & Levinson in Merrillville, Indiana.