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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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