After Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Thursday afternoon rejected his motion objecting to Marion County’s plan for early voting, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill turned to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Barker denied Hill’s motion two days after he had filed it in the federal court for Southern District of Indiana. In response, the attorney general filed a notice of appeal to the Chicago-based circuit court. The move was expected after Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said at a Thursday news conference the office would be appealing the consent decree.
Fisher said the attorney general was not trying to block early voting in Marion County. However, the office believes the agreement reached between Common Cause Indiana, the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP and the Marion County Election Board violates Indiana state law.
“Our goal is to apprise the court of how the proposed consent decree violates state law and to argue furthermore that federal law does not require it to enter the agreement regardless,” Fisher said. “Just because two parties show up in federal court seeking to be bound by an injunction doesn’t mean the federal should automatically enter that injunction.”
Common Cause and the NAACP filed a lawsuit in May 2017, claiming the Marion County Election Board was violating the Constitution by limiting the number of early voting sites. The case is Common Cause Indiana et al. v. Marion County Election Board, et al., 1:17-cv-1388.
In April 2018, Barker granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, mandating the election board open two satellite voting locations for in-person early voting in time for the November 2018 elections. Then seven days after the plaintiffs and defendants jointly submitted the consent decree to the court, Barker issued an order approving it.
The attorney general did not oppose the preliminary injunction. But almost 30 days after the court approved the consent decree, he filed his motion, questioning whether the vote by the election board was unanimous and arguing the agreement does not follow state statute.
“Now our concern is that this injunction requires a specified number of satellite early voting precincts indefinitely in contradiction to Indiana law,” Fisher said. “Indiana law requires not only unanimity on the board to establish satellite early voting offices but also says that any resolution authorizing those early voting offices expires at the end of the calendar year.”
Hill’s actions in the case have been blasted as “reckless” by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, whose office is charged by law with election oversight. She publicly urged Hill to withdraw from the case, but the AG’s office is proceeding despite Lawson’s objection.