The newly appointed Republican member of the Marion County Election Board has proposed a way to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination in access to voting, but a group behind the dispute and Democrats alike say the plan would worsen the problem. Melissa Thompson, who was appointed Sept. 15 to the three-person board, suggests eliminating the 600 existing voting precincts and replacing them with 99 vote centers, but also during the early-voting period a vote center or satellite site in each of the county’s nine townships. Thompson says her plan would save the county money by eliminating more than 500 locations while increasing the number of early-voting locations. She also says her plan would make voting more accessible to workers because they could cast a ballot at any vote center rather than having to go to a designated precinct. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but right now we have the opportunity to think bigger than just this lawsuit,” Thompson told IndyStar.
Julia Vaughn, executive director of political watchdog Common Cause Indiana, balked at the plan. “We’re pleased that they (Republicans) are now recognizing that access to voting is subpar in Marion County compared to surrounding communities,” she said. “But vote centers and early voting are completely different issues and doesn’t really have anything to do with our litigation.”
Common Cause’s lawsuit, filed in May, alleges that since 2008 Republicans have stymied attempts to add early voting locations in Marion County. In fact, the number of early-voting locations has declined from three to one. There is only one early-voting location for more than 700,000 voters. In neighboring Hamilton County, for example, there are three for 300,000 voters.