In two separate federal lawsuits, Common Cause v Marion County Board of Elections (May 2, 2017) and Indiana NAACP v. Lawson (Aug. 9, 2017), both challenging restrictions on voting rights in Indiana, civil rights organizations have sought to block what they describe as unconstitutional Republican schemes that, with “surgical precision”, seek to depress the vote in large minority, Democratic-leaning counties while contemporaneously enhancing voter turnout in white, Republican-leaning counties. The lawsuits entail two sets of laws. One of the lawsuits seeks to block a law that specifically targets Lake County — and only Lake County — for precinct consolidation and/or elimination. Lake County sports the state’s second largest African-American population and its largest Hispanic population. The other lawsuit challenges a voter suppression scheme that significantly reduces early absentee voting sites for a significant number of African-American (Democratic) voters in Marion County, even while mostly white (Republican) voters in neighboring counties benefit from a significant expansion in the number of available early absentee voting sites.
Both sets of laws, as observed by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, are part of the still-ongoing Republican response to the 2008 Presidential Election in which Barack Obama narrowly defeated John McCain 49.85% to 48.82% in long-Republican Indiana. That narrow victory was secured, in part, because, in the two populous counties that are the subject of these lawsuits, Lake and Marion, Obama received 66.7% and 63.8% of the vote totals, respectively.
That was a bridge too far for many Republican officials in the Hoosier State…
Marion County, which includes the city of Indianapolis, has the highest percentage (28%) of African-Americans in Indiana. The Common Cause lawsuit seeks to enjoin the Indiana GOP’s effort to significantly suppress the early absentee African-American Democratic vote in Marion County. Under a Marion County Board of Elections (MCEB) 2008 rule, registered voters in Marion County could cast early absentee ballots at one of three polling stations — a central location and two satellite locations.