Hill defends motion against early voting in Marion County

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is hitting back at Secretary of State Connie Lawson for calling his actions “reckless” but is remaining quiet on the assertion that his motion to derail Marion County’s plan to expand early voting is “premised on a fundamental factual misrepresentation.”

“Secretary of State Connie Lawson (Wednesday) released an ill-informed statement purveying the misconception that I oppose early-voting satellite sites in Marion County,” Hill said in a statement. “That is not true, and our position in court, if successful, would not block early voting sites. Rather, it would leave the decision in the hands of the Marion County Election Board.”

As Secretary of State, Lawson’s office by statute regulates elections. She said Wednesday Hill failed to consult her before going to court.

 The fight over early voting in Marion County was reignited on Tuesday when Hill moved to intervene to block the agreement reached between Common Cause Indiana, the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP and the Marion County Election Board. In July, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana approved the consent decree that establishes additional early voting sites for the November elections, and the Marion County Election Board subsequently announced six early voting sites.

However, Hill contends the vote of the election board was not unanimous and therefore violated state statute. His motion called the consent decree contrary to Indiana law and against the public interest.

Hill defended the motion Wednesday saying, “Nothing we have said in federal court would prevent Marion County from having as many early-voting satellite sites as it would like, pursuant to state law.”

The Marion County Election Board filed a response Wednesday. It disputed Hill’s allegations, providing links to video evidence showing the unanimous ratification from about the 5:15 to 5:25 time stamps, as well as a press release of the board’s meeting that shows all the members supported the consent decree. The board maintained the attorney general’s motion “is premised on a fundamental factual misrepresentation of the circumstances surrounding entry of the decree.”

Lawson also responded, noting the board’s vote was unanimous and urging the attorney general to drop his motion. In addition to opposing Hill’s action, Lawson was angry he did not talk to her about the matter before going to court.

“I did not ask him to do this,” Lawson said. “He did not have the professional courtesy to provide me notice of his motion, even that I am named as a party in the suit.”

Hill shot back, “As it happens, the Secretary of States does not enforce the statute at issue. Further, she was dismissed out of the case in June of 2017 and therefore was no longer a party to the case.”

The attorney general’s statement included a link to the notice removing Lawson as a defendant. In subsequent court filings from the plaintiffs and the courts, Lawson’s name does not appear in the list of defendants, but filings from the attorney general’s office, including the most recent motion to alter or amend, does list Lawson as a defendant.

Hill also bristled at Lawson calling his action “reckless.”

“There is nothing ‘reckless’ about an attorney general intervening in federal court on behalf of the state — my client — to defend the proper operation of state laws,” Hill said. “That is the attorney general’s job.”

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