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Editorial: Lawmakers don't inspire confidence

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
March 17, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial


Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan certainly spoke for us when he asked this question a couple of weeks ago:

"Wouldn't we feel better about all of this if it hadn't been enacted on partyline votes, though?"

We feel the same way about the voter ID law enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005. We all might feel better about it, and the state of our government both at the state and federal level, if there were a lot less party-line voting going on. As it stands, our voter ID law seems to have done little more than give Hoosiers something to argue about.

Lawyers were back before the Indiana Supreme Court after the Indiana Court of Appeals last fall reversed a Marion County judge's decision in League of Women Voters of Indiana and League of Women Voters of Indianapolis v. Todd Rokita, No. 49S02-1001-CV-50. Our COA found the voter ID law unconstitutional because it doesn't equally apply to all and imposes qualifications that are too burdensome to some voters. Justices are now considering how those issues apply to the state constitution.

We've always thought it was a law in search of a problem to fix. The state seems unable to find a case of in-person voter ID fraud that Indiana desperately needs to prevent, while the other side has failed to produce an example of someone who was prevented from voting by the ID law.

That doesn't stop us from appreciating Justice Robert Rucker's concern voiced at the same argument: "How can you have a system of integrity if you have some people denied the right to vote ... How does that inspire confidence?"

Nothing much about the Indiana General Assembly can be described by the words "integrity" and "confidence."

Because, you see, in the waning hours of the session, our esteemed legislators revived House Enrolled Act 1491, which was passed by both chambers during the 2009 session but later vetoed by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Introduced by Rep Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, the measure purports to replace merit selection with nonpartisan elections in the St. Joseph Superior courts. It's one of only two systems statewide that currently use merit selection; the other is Lake County.

Most other counties elect their judges in partisan elections. But there are exceptions. Vanderburgh County utilizes nonpartisan elections. And to bring up the machinations by which Marion County judges are selected in this space at this time wouldn't do anyone any good.

HEA 1491 also would have created a sixth COA panel starting in 2011 at a price tag of $2 million; money no one surely wants to spend. Ultimately, the attempted override of the governor's veto failed.

No, words like "integrity" and "confidence" don't much come to mind when one thinks about the legislature. The word "cynical" certainly does.

Bill Jonas is a South Bend attorney and was the Indiana State Bar Association president who fought with other bar associations to turn back the measure last year. He appears to feel cynical about the legislature, too, according to what he told our reporter for yet another story on HEA 1491.

"I find it discouraging and more than a little cynical that this would surface at the end of the session when it could be hidden or lost in the shuffle of end-ofterm business," Jonas wrote to us in an e-mail.

Discouraged and cynical is no way for a citizen to feel about the people we elect to govern.

Opinions: Readers may offer opinions concerning Indiana Lawyer stories and other legal issues. Readers may respond immediately by viewing the “submissions” section on our website http://www.theindianalawyer.com. We reserve the right to edit letters for space requirements and to reproduce letters on Indiana Lawyer’s website and online databases. We do not publish anonymous letters. Direct letters to editor Rebecca Collier at rcollier@ibj.com or 41 E. Washington St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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