Indiana officials are denying that the forced consolidation of small voting precincts in Lake County is voter suppression, as a federal lawsuit alleges. In a response filed Tuesday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jr. denied allegations a state law that would consolidate voting precincts with less than 600 active voters disenfranchised Lake County residents, particularly in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. The attorney general’s 72-page response refuted the suggestion the legislation was unlawful and that it is voter suppression, according to court documents. “Plaintiffs have failed to show SB 220 places a disproportionate burden on minorities or other voters in Lake County,” Hill wrote, in the response.
The Indiana State conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a group of Lake County residents said, in the lawsuit, the forced consolidation of voting precincts with fewer than 600 voters “places severe, undue burdens on one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens in our representative democracy: the right to vote.”
“Plaintiffs bring the instant lawsuit to protect the right to vote and to prevent the disenfranchisement of and unjustified burdens on voters in Lake County, Indiana — including in particular, the disparate burdens placed on Lake County’s African American, Hispanic, poor and disabled voters,” the lawsuit read.
The suit was filed in August in federal court in Hammond, by a Washington D.C.,-based law firm, shortly before the Indiana Elections Commission’s regular meeting where officials were set to take up the issue of Lake County’s small precinct consolidation plan. County election officials had until Aug. 1 to file a consolidation plan. That plan was not filed.