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Monday, February 29, 2016

Ind. Courts - Federal lawsuit challenges state law effectively barring some mentally ill from voting

Thursday the Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, on behalf of the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission, filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of IC 3-5-5-17, which:

... provides that persons who are adjudged as mentally ill and are committed to an Indiana institution for individuals with mental illness do not gain residency for voting purposes in the precinct where the institution is located. This, despite the fact that Indiana law specifically allows persons who reside in a veterans home to be a resident of the precinct where the home is located and college students to vote in the precincts where their schools are located. The statute poses a particular hardship for persons who have been committed to a state institution for lengthy periods of time who have no other home precinct where they could register and vote. Indeed, it appears that under Indiana law the named plaintiff, Patricia Featherston, has nowhere in Indiana where she can legally vote. The statute also imposes a hardship on institution residents who reasonably view the institution and the area where it is located as their home and therefore wish to be able to vote in local elections so as to influence issues of local concerns.
Here is a copy of the lawsuit. And here is a story from David Wells of the Courthouse News Service, that begins:
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (CN) - An Indiana law robs people who live at mental health facilities of their right to vote, residents claim in a federal class action.

The 13-page class action lawsuit filed Thursday claims that Indiana Code ยง3-5-5-17 denies residents who are committed to mental health facilities their right to vote by not allowing them to claim residency where the facilities are located.

Filed against Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Indiana Election Commission members, the Jefferson County Clerk and the state itself, the lawsuit claims that the law is unconstitutional and violates federal disability law.

The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission, represented by the Indiana Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and lead plaintiff Patricia Featherston sued on behalf of a proposed class of all adults who cannot vote in the same precinct as their mental health institution because of the state law.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 29, 2016 09:02 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts