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US judge blocks Indiana's limits on voting time extensions

A federal judge blocked a law unique to Indiana that prevents voters from asking courts to extend voting hours beyond the state's 6 p.m. closing time because of Election Day troubles.

Posted: Sep 24, 2020 4:24 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge blocked a law unique to Indiana that prevents voters from asking courts to extend voting hours beyond the state's 6 p.m. closing time because of Election Day troubles.

The judge’s preliminary injunction issued Tuesday blocks a law passed last year by Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature. The law prohibits anyone other than a county election board, which oversees voting matters, from requesting court orders to extend voting hours.

It comes as county election officials are preparing coronavirus precautions for in-person voting on Nov. 3 while handling an expected surge in mail-in ballots.

The lawsuit, filed in July by the voting rights group Common Cause Indiana, objected to provisions that allow judges to keep polling sites open only if they were shut down, and preventing them from considering situations such as malfunctioning equipment, insufficient ballots or long wait times.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young cited instances during the November 2018 elections where county judges extended voting hours because of ballot shortages and equipment troubles.

“While there is no difference between disenfranchisement caused when a polling location is physically closed and when one is open but without functioning machines or ballots, the (law) limits relief to the former,” Young wrote. “A voter facing one of the other barriers is simply out of luck.”

Young also wrote that the state attorney general’s office gave little justification in defending the law.

“The State may not simply invoke the phrase ‘election integrity’ without further explanation,” the judge said.

The state attorney general’s office didn’t immediately comment Thursday on the decision.

A lawyer who represented Common Cause said Indiana was the only state that has adopted such a law.

“This decision is particularly important for the voting rights of Black and Latino citizens — who are the most affected by polling place closures, long lines and equipment malfunctions,” said Ami Gandhi of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Young’s ruling comes after another federal judge last month struck down Indiana’s process of rejecting absentee ballots because of differing voter signatures, since the process didn’t require voters to be told about such decisions or offer a way to contest them.

In another case, a judge rejected an attempt to force Indiana election officials to allow all voters to cast their ballots by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other GOP leaders have turned aside calls from Democrats and others to lift Indiana’s mail-in voting limits, which allow people to vote by mail only if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older or being absent from their home counties on Election Day.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 665285

Reported Deaths: 12697
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion910581653
Lake48637887
Allen36050641
Hamilton32231398
St. Joseph30243514
Elkhart25484420
Vanderburgh21315382
Tippecanoe20185205
Johnson16425361
Porter16053276
Hendricks15899301
Clark12032182
Madison11779321
Vigo11672231
Monroe10394164
Delaware9879179
LaPorte9821198
Howard9095199
Kosciusko8588111
Bartholomew7504147
Warrick7445153
Hancock7439134
Floyd7255172
Wayne6654192
Grant6453157
Boone611991
Morgan6118126
Dubois5933112
Dearborn550669
Cass5477100
Marshall5446105
Henry542695
Noble510978
Jackson465567
Shelby462591
Lawrence4193113
Gibson404985
Harrison402764
Clinton397053
Montgomery390584
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350638
Huntington348377
Steuben339855
Wabash333076
Putnam331960
Ripley327862
Adams325149
Jasper318443
White298052
Jefferson295974
Daviess285696
Fayette272656
Decatur271388
Greene262280
Posey261432
Wells258975
Scott251450
LaGrange242170
Clay241444
Randolph225877
Spencer219330
Jennings216344
Washington213027
Sullivan203639
Fountain202542
Starke189251
Owen183453
Fulton179637
Jay178528
Carroll176919
Perry173836
Orange171351
Rush165422
Vermillion161542
Franklin159735
Tipton149241
Parke140116
Pike128433
Blackford120627
Pulaski107544
Newton96732
Brown95240
Benton92413
Crawford92113
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54111
Unassigned0434

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