opinion

OPINION: Litigation is the last hope for free, open elections in Indiana 



opinelections071520

Students line up to vote outside the Indiana Memorial Union on Nov. 6, 2018. IDS file photo and Matt Begala

Ballot shortages, technological errors on voting machines and election equipment, long lines at voting centers and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic are all real threats to the efficacy and efficiency of the 2020 presidential election. It is the responsibility of those in power, namely Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, to ensure that voters can freely and openly participate in the election. Unfortunately, this responsibility has been largely ignored.

Lawson and Hoosier Republican lawmakers failed Indiana voters by passing Senate Bill 560 in 2019, barring voters, parties or candidates from petitioning courts to keep polling locations open past 6 p.m. Under this law, county election boards with a unanimous vote are the only entities permitted to ask courts across the state to extend voting times. 

This directly infringes on the rights of voters to not only participate in elections without undue burdens, but to also petition state courts under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. Litigation is needed to remove the barriers imposed on voters by Republican lawmakers fearful of electoral participation. 

Through the efforts of Common Cause Indiana, an organization that works to increase government accountability, the change needed to improve access to the ballot box in Indiana is within reach. 

This month, the organization filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 560. If successful in court, the lawsuit will restore voters with the power to petition courts to keep polling locations open for reasons such as technological malfunctions and long lines, both likely scenarios during the 2020 election. 

It is of utmost importance to the legitimacy of this election and elections in the future that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana sides with Common Cause Indiana and recognizes the clear constitutional violations that riddle Senate Bill 560.

During times of deep national uncertainty when citizens thirst for steady and effective leadership, lawmakers in Indiana must make a determined effort to protect the right of Americans to vote on Election Day. 

Imposing limits on voting and building barriers that block access to the ballot box highlight the lack of capability plaguing the Indiana statehouse and the secretary of state’s office. It is imperative that legal action is pursued to remove obstacles to voting and to empower voters with the tools necessary to make their voices heard on Election Day in Indiana.

James Bassett (He/Him) is a senior studying political science at Indiana University and is the deputy national communications director for the College Democrats of America. 

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