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Class action suit challenges voter-removal statute

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State officials are prohibiting people convicted and incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses from voting while they are behind bars, but that could change if a federal suit is successful.

The class action suit – David R. Snyder v. J. Bradley King, et al., No. 1:10-CV-1019 – filed Monday in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana challenges a state statute allowing for that prohibition. The suit claims the statute not only violates the U.S. and Indiana constitutions but also flies in the face of appellate caselaw holding that voting rights can be restricted only for felony convicts.  

South Bend resident David R. Snyder charges that state officials wrongly removed him from the statewide voter registration list because of a 2008 conviction for Class A misdemeanor battery that led to his two-month incarceration in early 2009. Snyder received a letter from St. Joseph County Clerk Rita Glenn in March 2009 that stated his voter registration was being cancelled immediately pursuant to Indiana Code 3-7-46.

The notice also said that I.C. 3-7-13-4(a) and 3-7-46-1 and -2 allow for his removal from the statewide voter registry, along with the Indiana Election Division’s standard operating procedure VRG 12.1 that states anyone “imprisoned following a conviction of a crime is disfranchised during the person’s imprisonment.”

The lawsuit says that as a result of that voter ineligibility, Snyder was not able to vote in subsequent elections, including a local referendum vote in November 2009 and the May 2010 primary. He filed a written complaint earlier this year with the Indiana Election Division and the county, exhausting what the lawsuit says is the available administrative grievance process.

Pursuing this suit as a class action, Snyder’s attorneys argue that the size of the group is currently unknown and that it could be “so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical.”

Citing the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the First and 14th amendments, Snyder argues that he was wrongly prevented from being included on the voter rolls. He also raises a state claim that the law violates Article 2, §8 of the Indiana Constitution with a discriminatory and unlawful procedure.

While the Indiana Constitution permits the state to restrict voting of those convicted and imprisoned for any “infamous crime,” the suit explains that the Indiana appellate courts have defined that to be a felony.

The suit asks that the federal court certify Snyder’s class and to issue an injunction preventing state officials from removing those class members from the voter rolls, specifically declaring that the Indiana law provisions are violations of the U.S. Constitution. The suit also asks for the federal court to certify a question to the Indiana Supreme Court: whether the term “infamous crimes” in the state constitution applies to misdemeanors punishable by actual incarceration.

Indianapolis attorney William Groth with Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towe is representing Snyder.

 

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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