7th Circuit: Marion County judicial elections unconstitutional

September 9, 2015

The way Marion County judges are elected is unconstitutional, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, throwing out a 40-year-old system that ensured an even split of Democratic and Republican judges and facilitated a pay-to-play party slating system.

“We agree with the district court that the Statute at issue burdens the right to cast a meaningful vote without sufficiently weighty interests to justify such a burden,” the 7th Circuit ruled in Common Cause Indiana v. Individual Members of the Indiana Election Commission, et al., 14-3300.

“We conclude that the precise interests put forward by the State do not justify the burden placed on the right to vote for judicial candidates for the Marion Superior Court. Therefore, the Statute violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” the panel held.

Marion County’s judicial election law that ensured Democratic and Republican parties an equal number of judgeships was tossed out in October 2014 after a lawsuit was brought by the public-interest group Common Cause. The election law has facilitated a system whereby both parties “slate” those ballot positions with candidates who make five-figure financial contributions to the parties.

The slating process essentially makes the general election pointless because those candidates who win in primary elections are assured election due to the allocation of a set number of judgeships to each party.

This story will be updated.



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