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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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