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Monday, June 01, 2015

Ind. Courts - "Lake election law set for Indiana Supreme Court review"

That is the headline to this long Sunday story in the NWI Times, reported by Dan Carden. The story includes links to the briefs and other documents. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS | Did the Republican-controlled General Assembly illegally target Lake County last year by passing a law requiring officials study whether to consolidate "small" election precincts with fewer than 500 active voters?

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that question Thursday as Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller seeks to restore the statute declared unconstitutional in August by Lake Circuit Judge George Paras.

Paras found the Lake County small-precinct study required by Senate Enrolled Act 385 (2014) violates the Indiana Constitution's prohibition on "special legislation" that applies only to one locality.

He said nearly every county in the state has small precincts and, as such, a law mandating only Lake County study how to reduce them, when a general law could be enacted instead, is unconstitutional.

"There are no unique circumstances that rationally justify the application of the statute to Lake County alone out of all the counties in Indiana," Paras said.

The story continues:
However, Zoeller points out in his written arguments to the high court that Lake County is unique, because it has 174 small precincts out of 525 total — the most small precincts of any county in the state.

In fact, he notes Lake County has more small precincts than the combined number of small precincts in the similarly populous Marion County (Indianapolis), Allen County (Fort Wayne) and Hamilton County (Carmel).

"This uniquely high number of small precincts likely leads to administrative inefficiencies and the Lake County election board preliminarily estimated that it carried substantial unnecessary financial burdens," Zoeller said.

"The General Assembly was justified in enacting special legislation to address this problem that is unique to Lake County."

Sheriff John Buncich, who also is chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, sued to halt the law requiring the small precinct consolidation study, because he believes reducing the number of precincts will make it harder for voters to get to their polling places.

His attorney, Clay Patton, of Valparaiso, claims 28 of Indiana's 92 counties tie or exceed Lake County for the percentage of their precincts with fewer than 500 active voters.

Patton argues if a study of small precinct consolidation is needed it is needed in every county, not just Lake County, and to specifically target Lake County is unfair and unconstitutional.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 1, 2015 09:16 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts