State opposes ‘last minute change’ to polling hours law

The state of Indiana is trying to stop a federal judge’s ruling that would allow Hoosier voters themselves to go to state court and file for an extension of polling hours if problems arise with balloting on Election Day.

Under an amendment made in 2019 to Indiana election laws, only a county election board has standing to petition the courts to extend polling place hours beyond 6 p.m. Previously, voters could file a request for an extension whenever they encountered a barrier to casting their ballot.

Common Cause challenged the new provisions in Common Cause Indiana v. Connie Lawson, et al., 1:20-cv-1825. The Southern Indiana District Court issued a preliminary injunction Sept. 22 enjoining Indiana Code §§ 3-11.7-7.2, 3-11.7-7-3 and 3.11.7-7-4 from taking effect.

Tuesday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office filed both a notice of appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and a motion to stay the enforcement of the preliminary injunction while the appeal is pending.

In its motion, the Attorney General asserted that with just over a month before the election, the preliminary injunction imposes a “last-minute change” in procedures which may “cause confusion for voters and Indiana trial courts.” Also, the attorney general maintained Indiana voters still have the ability to extend polling hours by bringing Section 1983 actions in either state or federal court.

“Accordingly the Court’s injunction amounts to an order from a federal court directing state courts to hear certain kinds of state law claims, which is not a cognizable remedy under our federal system,” Hill argued.

This is the second challenge to Indiana voting law pending before the 7th Circuit. Wednesday, the appellate court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Tully, et al. v. Okesonet al., 20-2605. This lawsuit seeks to overturn Indiana’s restrictions on absentee voting so all Hoosiers can mail in their ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Arguments are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

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