Hebenstreit: Lawyers and the Election Process

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IBA-hebenstreitImagine a fall Sunday afternoon and Lucas Oil Stadium is filled to capacity with Hoosiers. But before the Colts take the field, the announcer asks the audience to stand. Then the announcer directs that all in attendance who are registered to vote should remain standing. Some would certainly take their seats—in fact, 39 % of the fans would sit down since they are not even registered to vote. Then the announcer instructs all who did not vote in the 2010 midterm elections to be seated. How many would be on their feet? According to a recently issued report only 39 of 100 fans would still be standing if the fans were representative of Indiana citizens. This is a statistic that is truly shameful.

Recently the 2011 Indiana Civic Health Index “report card” was published. The National Conference on Citizenship supports such studies throughout the Country and Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Former US Congressman Lee Hamilton co-chaired the study for Indiana. It was based in large part on analysis of the US Census Bureau Current Population Survey. By and large, we Hoosiers do take part in community service and the social aspects of civic life, but fall far short in connection with voter registration as well as voter turnout. In 2010, 61.2% of Hoosiers were registered to vote which placed us in 43rd place in the United States. We were even worse in voter turnout. Only 39.4% of Indiana residents actually voted in the 2010 elections which placed us in 48th position. The national average was 45.4%—a full six points higher than Indiana was able to muster.

The point of the study was not to berate Hoosiers, but to determine what areas need help. Why do we score so low on voting? Perhaps it is the belief that nothing will fix our situation, but that will only become a self fulfilling prophesy. If we don’t care enough to solve it, who will?

I am even more curious about the results if that announcer then asked everyone to sit who has never volunteered to work an election. That could be mean an inspector, precinct worker, clerk, judge, commissioner or other “official for the day” who makes sure that we are all afforded the Constitutionally guaranteed right to have a voice in the selection of our government. I suspect that it would be shockingly low.

Sometimes memories get distorted with age, but my recollection is that when I was a new lawyer, there were attorneys at virtually all polling locations. The Courts were closed, and it was almost expected that attorneys would participate in the process on Election Day. Attorneys worked at the polling places and manned the positions at the City County Building to insure that all polling places opened and were fully operational for the voting public. I know that the pressure is now greater to generate billable hours, but what could be more important than the fundamental right to vote?

In the election process, the inspector is the “czar” of the polling place. The Inspector controls all aspects of voting at the designated the location and ultimately delivers the ballots to the Central location for counting after the polls close. Under our current system, it is the party of the Clerk who is in charge of filling the Inspector positions. Then each party is expected to have a judge and a clerk to assist the Inspector at each polling location. Since there are 590 precincts in Marion County, that means that for the system to operate as established, Beth White, our County Clerk needs almost 3000 volunteers just to work the polls. There is a small stipend paid for the service, but that is not really the point. Our system has been developed and morphed over the years to provide as fair and impartial process as is possible. That is one of the fundamental rights our Founding Fathers felt was critically important for the preservation of our Republic.

We, as attorneys, live in a world of laws. We practice in a world of peaceful elections and resort to impartial Courts for the resolution of disputes. Who better than attorneys to insure that the system works properly?

The IndyBar offers training for those who are willing to serve as Inspectors. The training will be held at the IBA offices on October 13th from 9AM until noon. All attorneys who attend will receive 3 hours of CLE credit. In this electronic and digital age, you could work the polls and still be in touch with the office and /or your clients. We should consider it our calling to insure that our system of government is preserved and fully manned. If you are not interested in serving as an Inspector, call either political party and volunteer to be a judge or clerk at your local polling location. It is the least we can do to push our abysmal ranking higher.•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.