A new state law would close hundreds of polling locations in areas with large minority populations.
The Indiana chapter of the NAACP is suing state election officials to block a new law that would shutter hundreds of polling locations in a county with a large number of African American and Hispanic voters. The lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday, alleges that the law specifically targets a particular region of the state with a large minority, poor, and elderly population, impeding the ability of those voters to cast a ballot.
The law was signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb in May, as Indiana was already increasing voting opportunities in whiter Republican strongholds while decreasing them in areas with more minority and Democratic voters. An investigation by the Indianapolis Star found that since 2008, when Barack Obama won the state, Republican officials have driven up turnout significantly in conservative, suburban areas by increasing the number of early voting locations. At the same time, they have driven down turnout in Democratic, urban areas by cutting the number of early polling stations. In May, the NAACP, its Indiana chapter, and Common Cause Indiana, a progressive watchdog group, filed a lawsuit over the disparity in early voting locations.
This spring, the Republican-controlled legislature added to this trend with the Lake County Precinct Consolidation Law. The law targets a single county that has the state’s second-largest African American population and its largest Hispanic population. Under the law, the county would have to eliminate or consolidate all voting precincts with fewer than 600 active voters as of the 2016 election. (Voters who are “inactive,” meaning that election officials have flagged them as potentially no longer residing in the county, are not counted, even though they are eligible to vote and often do.)