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Federal judge still won't block Voter ID law

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A week before some Indiana voters go to the polls, a federal judge in Indianapolis has declined to block the state's voter identification law that's currently in flux following a state appellate court ruling in September.

U.S. Judge Larry McKinney on Monday denied a Cumberland attorney's motion for temporary injunctive relief, which would have stopped Indiana from being able to enforce its voter ID law during the Nov. 3 election.

The action comes in a federal case filed by Robbin Stewart to challenge the statute, which was passed in 2005 and has since been upheld by federal constitutional standards by the Supreme Court of the United States. Stewart filed the suit in April 2008 in Marion County, though it was later removed to the Southern District of Indiana to resolve the multiple federal and state constitutional claims. A year ago, Judge McKinney denied a request to certify a constitutional question for the Indiana Supreme Court's consideration. He also denied Stewart's first motion for preliminary injunction prior to the 2008 presidential election, and the judge referred to that previous order in denying this more recent motion.

What's changed since then, however, is an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling on Sept. 17 that struck down the state statute on grounds similar to what Stewart is arguing in his federal case. A unanimous three-judge panel for the state court reversed a ruling by Marion Superior Judge S.K. Reid, who in late 2008 upheld the state statute and found it didn't violate Indiana Constitution Article 2, Section 2 and Article 1, Section 23. Instead, the appellate judges found the law "regulates voters in a manner that's not uniform and impartial," and as a result they instructed the trial judge to enter an order declaring it void.

The Indiana Supreme Court is currently considering requests from attorneys in the state suit to weigh in on that case, but justices haven't yet made a decision to grant or deny transfer.

Stewart's case remains open and a case management plan submitted earlier this year called for a two-day trial in November; it's unknown if that will still happen.

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