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Judge OKs settlement in voter-registration class action suit

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A federal judge in Indianapolis on Thursday approved a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against Indiana relating to state offices not adequately providing public assistance for voter registration.

Approved by U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, the settlement requires that Indiana implement specific measures to assure tens of thousands of low-income Hoosiers have the opportunity to register to vote at state public assistance offices, as mandated by the National Voter Registration Act.

The settlement comes in Indiana State Conference of the NAACP v. Michael Gargano, et al., No. 1:09-cv-0849, a class action suit filed in July 2009 alleging the state violated federal law because the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration routinely didn’t distribute voter registration applications and offer help to those applying for public assistance – which is required of all state offices.

As a result of that lack of assistance, the lawsuit said tens of thousands of low-income Hoosiers were denied the opportunity to register to vote or update their voting information after moving to a new residence.

The suit was brought by the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, and other national civil rights groups.

Indiana has already started implementing aspects of the settlement prior to this final court approval, and the number of people submitting registration applications through state public assistance offices in recent months has increased substantially. State figures show the monthly average registration applications received has gone from about 100 before the lawsuit filing to about 4,800 now.

Some of the methods being implemented include more uniform signs and posters at state offices advertising the voter registration options and what assistance is available, as well as having statewide and local voting registration coordinators and providing compliance manuals and training to staff. New sign-in procedures are also included, and remedial mailings can be offered to those who don’t register in person at the offices.

Indiana hasn’t been alone in dealing with this issue and court battle. The same voting rights groups have filed many other suits nationwide in recent years, forcing other states to comply with the federal law they’d been disregarding in similar ways.

“We are pleased that Indiana has agreed to resolve this litigation through settlement,” Barbara Bolling, president of the Indiana NAACP, said in a statement. “This is an important step forward to ensuring that all Indiana residents have the opportunity to register to vote and participate in elections in our state.”

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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