In a bombshell report released in early August, the Indy Star found that some of our state politicians have been systematically putting up barriers to voting, with chilling results.
After the 2008 Election, in which we elected our first black President and marked the first election in over 40 years that a Democrat won the state of Indiana, members of the GOP shut down two early voting sites in Marion County and moved them to Hamilton County.
Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, is a Democratic stronghold, while Hamilton, which has the state’s highest median income, is a GOP stronghold. Despite Marion County having a population three times the size of Hamilton, it was left with only one early voting site to Hamilton’s three.
A difference of two voting sites doesn’t sound like a lot, but the results are staggering: Marion County saw a 26 percent decline in voting, while during the same period Hamilton saw a 63 percent increase. Refusing to acknowledge the obvious statistics, Indiana’s Secretary of State, the chief elections officer, recently went on record denying the correlation between voting access and voter turnout.
Not only have efforts been spearheaded in central Indiana to keep incumbents in power, but efforts here in Lake County have attracted controversy at the national level as well. Recently the Indiana State Legislature passed Senate Bill 220, a law that would consolidate 294 of the county’s 522 precincts, which are small voting districts.
The immediate result would be a commensurate closure of polling places, longer travel times, and longer wait times for citizens in the affected precincts. Forty-one percent of precincts in south Lake County and 78 percent of those in north Lake County are being targeted for consolidation.
In response, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit alleging that the new law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as well as the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Not only does the law place a punishing burden on our right to vote, but it also targets a single county, leaving alone approximately 1,345 precincts outside Lake County and across Indiana that contain fewer than 600 active voters. In 2014, the state tried to pass a similar bill, but it was overturned by a state court for unjustifiably targeting a single county, and it never made it into law.
Regardless of your political views, Lake County’s precinct consolidation law is an insult to us all. We deserve more representation in Indianapolis, not less. These targeted efforts to close polling places and make voting more difficult are part of a sinister vision to deprive thousands of Hoosier citizens their right to participate in our government.
It’s often cynics who say that one vote doesn’t make a difference, and that standing up to political powers isn’t something that can be changed by any ordinary person. In fact, some of our elected officials across Lake County have sponsored and even authored this incredibly damaging legislation.
There is bold-faced hypocrisy in a politician asking for something as sacred as your vote, then working tirelessly to take it away from you. We must demand more from our representation, and we must hold them accountable when they pass laws that are not only a severe burden, but also against the very ideals this country was founded on.
From the Post-Tribune (September 27, 2017)