« Ind. Gov't. - "New sentencing laws prompt local worries around state" [Updated] | Main | Courts - More on "Federal District Court Strikes Wisconsin Voter ID in ACLU Case" »

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ind. Courts - "2 Democrats sue for voter records in bid for judges' seats"

The hearing is going on this morning. Tim Evans' long story this morning in the Indianapolis Star reports:

Two Democrats running against the party's slate of endorsed Superior Court judge candidates have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Marion County Board of Voter Registration to give them access to thousands of public voter records.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Marion Circuit Court by attorney Greg Bowes on behalf of his client, David Hennessy. Bowes and Hennessy are running for Democratic nominations for judgeships.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday on the petition for an emergency order that would allow Hennessy to immediately inspect the documents he sought to obtain through a public records request filed March 13.

The records include home and email addresses of voters, as well as their telephone numbers — valuable data now unavailable to nonslated candidates but available to endorsed candidates through the state party. * * *

The lawsuit highlights the contention surrounding a unique state law that dictates how Marion Superior Court judges are elected — a process that requires candidates seeking endorsements to pay a hefty fee to their respective political parties and guarantees Democratic and Republican candidates never run against each other in the general election.

State legislators created the system in 2006 to try to limit the influence of political parties, though some say it has had the opposite effect. Each party now nominates candidates for half the open judicial seats in a given year, and each party ends up with an equal number of judges on the bench.

Bowes and Hennessy are vying to be among the eight Democrats who will win judicial seats designated for the party in next week's primary election.

But they, along with Indianapolis attorney Christopher Starkey, are running against eight other Democrats endorsed by the party, candidates who paid $14,000 each to cover the cost of the campaign — and to be considered for a party endorsement. * * *

The controversial judicial selection process also is the target of a 2013 lawsuit filed against Gov. Mike Pence, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and members of the Indiana Election Commission. That suit challenges the constitutionality of the state law that limits the number of seats each party can seek.

Voters who choose not to participate in a primary election, which requires them to declare a party affiliation, have no say in who will take the bench, according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Common Cause Indiana. At best, those who do vote in the primary can vote for only half the judgeships in Marion County.

State officials deny the suit's claims, arguing that the Indiana law is constitutional "and only imposes reasonable nondiscriminatory restrictions on voting as part of the state's important regulatory interests," court records show.

The ILB has obtained a copy of the complaint.

In addition, the ILB has located here an April 22, 2014 Public Access Counselor "response to an informal inquiry" re "Reasonable Particularity and Voter Registration Cards." Here is a sample:

Your client stated a preference for receiving the records electronically. The Board has indicated in the past the forms are scanned and uploaded electronically and therefore are maintained in that format. You argue this would presumably ease the retrieval and production of the forms, despite the Board’s contention they are unable to do so. You take exception to their assertion the forms would need to be printed and delivered and consequently your client would be assessed the $.04 Marion County charges for copies. * * *

On the topic of fees, a public agency which maintains public records in an electronic data storage system shall make reasonable efforts to provide to a person making a request a copy of all disclosable data contained in the records on paper, disk, tape, drum, or any other method of electronic retrieval if the medium requested is compatible with the agency's data storage system. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(d). This also appears to be consistent with Marion County, Indiana Election Board Resolution No 05-12, which is
attached for your reference. In the case of electronic production, only the direct cost of the production is permitted to be charged under Ind. Code § 5-14-3-8(g)(1). Unless an ordinance or policy reflects otherwise, if you provide a compatible disk to the Board, they would incur no actual cost and should not charge for the cost of production.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 30, 2014 09:43 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts