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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: 763688

Reported Deaths: 13963
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1048591803
Lake567611029
Allen42619698
St. Joseph37234568
Hamilton37098426
Elkhart29678469
Tippecanoe23321230
Vanderburgh23086404
Porter19530327
Johnson18734391
Hendricks17994321
Madison13446345
Clark13429198
Vigo12779255
LaPorte12528224
Monroe12474178
Delaware11087198
Howard10599237
Kosciusko9729123
Hancock8699149
Bartholomew8228157
Warrick8020157
Floyd7961181
Grant7330181
Wayne7221201
Boone7137105
Morgan6878142
Marshall6320116
Dubois6255118
Cass6083111
Dearborn597878
Noble595290
Henry5939111
Jackson514077
Shelby508297
Lawrence4890127
Gibson460596
Montgomery453692
Clinton452355
DeKalb451185
Harrison449476
Whitley413945
Huntington411581
Steuben409560
Miami403773
Jasper399355
Knox387091
Putnam383462
Wabash366983
Adams350456
Ripley350471
Jefferson340386
White338854
Daviess3084100
Wells301981
Greene292085
Decatur291492
Fayette285864
Posey280235
Scott277458
LaGrange276772
Clay272548
Washington252037
Randolph246283
Jennings237549
Spencer237231
Fountain233150
Starke229759
Owen220959
Sullivan218643
Fulton207445
Jay202832
Carroll196122
Orange190556
Perry189039
Vermillion179544
Rush176927
Franklin171635
Tipton171447
Parke153116
Pike140934
Blackford137732
Pulaski122848
Newton122136
Benton108915
Brown105443
Crawford104816
Martin92515
Warren87515
Switzerland8308
Union73510
Ohio58111
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