Secretary of State to AG Hill: Drop opposition to satellite voting

Opposition is rising to embattled Attorney General Curtis Hill’s move to block expanded early voting in Marion County, with Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson calling Hill’s action “reckless” and urging him to drop the matter. Under state law, Lawson’s office is responsible for election oversight.

Hill’s office filed a motion Tuesday to alter or amend the federal court consent decree that establishes additional satellite early voting centers in Indianapolis for the November 2018 mid-term elections. In his court filing, he claims the agreement is contrary to Indiana law and not in the public’s interest.

“I support Marion County’s unanimous decision to adopt satellite voting. I urge Attorney General Hill to drop this,” Lawson said in a statement. “Satellite voting is a bipartisan effort and the Attorney General’s filing does not reflect the will of Marion County voters. By his reckless action, the Attorney General has disrupted more than 18 months of productive, bipartisan conversations.”

Common Cause and the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP filed a lawsuit in 2017 against the Marion County Election Board. The suit, Common Cause et al. v. Marion County Election Board, 1:17-cv-1388, asserted the lack of early voting sites in Marion County violated the First and Fourteen Amendments.

In July, Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana approved a consent decree, and the Marion County Election Board subsequently announced six early voting sites around Indianapolis.

The Marion County Election Board responded quickly to Hill’s motion. It called the attorney general’s assertion that the board violated state law by not unanimously adopting the consent decree as “factually incorrect.”

In her statement, Lawson contended Hill did not consult with her before filing the motion.

“As Indiana’s Chief Election Officer, I oppose Attorney General Hill’s intervention in the Marion County satellite voting case. I did not ask him to do this,” she said. “He did not have the professional courtesy to provide me notice of his motion, even though I am named as a party in the suit.” Both Hill and Lawson are Republicans.

Common Cause and the Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP also responded to Hill’s motion. The plaintiffs described it as a wasteful and partisan effort to deny Marion County voters access to the polls.

“With this belated, factually incorrect and ill-conceived attempt to deny Marion County voters the same access to satellite early voting as voters in other counties, Attorney General Hill is demonstrating that his agenda is not in sync with that of the Marion County Election Board and the vast majority of voters in the state’s largest and most diverse county,” said Chrystal Ratcliffe, president of the NAACP Indianapolis branch 3035. “I encourage all voters to send AG Hill a message. Tell him to stop using taxpayer funds trying to suppress the vote in Marion County.”

Common Cause policy director Julia Vaughn wondered why Hill was attempting to “blow up” the bipartisan agreement on early voting. She blasted his court filing and wondered if the continuing scandal involving sexual misconduct accusations against him played a role.

“We are extremely disappointed that Attorney General Curtis Hill is continuing his partisan crusade to deny Marion County voters equal access to early voting,” Vaughn said. “It is clear that the attorney general does not seek to represent the interests of Marion County voters in this matter; he is seeking to curry favor with hard core partisans within his party, perhaps to encourage anonymous contributions to his secret legal defense fund.”    

Leaders of both parties, including Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, called on Hill to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct became public.

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