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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. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  2. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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