Indiana AG, elections chief spar over early voting sites in Marion County

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A war of words between two of Indiana’s most powerful state leaders centers around early voting in Marion County.

Attorney General Curtis Hill and Secretary of State Connie Lawson, both Republicans, are the two. 

Critics said a court motion by Hill could restrict early voting in Indiana in November.

Hill filed the motion Tuesday to fight a plan that was already approved by the Marion County Election Board. 

In late July, the board agreed to add six early voting sites beyond the county clerk’s office for the Nov. 6 election. The agreement also calls for more early voting sites in 2019.

All this comes due to a 2017 lawsuit filed about the limited early voting sites in Marion County.     

State law requires election changes to have a unanimous vote. 

Hill’s motion said, beyond 2019, there was not unanimous support for additional satellite voting sites. 

The election board, in a court motion filed Wednesday, called Hill’s motion “factually incorrect.” It cited a video from that July meeting, indicating the vote on the new election changes was in fact unanimous.

A spokesperson for the Marion County Clerk’s office said the 2019 sites as outlined in this deal would only apply if Marion County did not change its voting from precincts, where you have a designated place to vote, to vote centers, where you can cast your ballot at any polling place. 

He said the election board already voted to implement the change next year. 

Lawson, Indiana’s chief election officer, expressed concern about how Hill’s motion could effect Marion County voters. 

“By his reckless action, the attorney general has disrupted more than 18 months of productive, bi-partisan conversations,” she said in part in a statement. “He did not have the professional courtesy to provide me notice of his motion.” 

Hours later, Hill released his own statement, saying he does not oppose early voting satellite sites. 

“Rather, it would leave the decision in the hands of the Marion County Election Board,” he said in his statement. 

“There is nothing ‘reckless’ about an attorney general intervening in federal court on behalf of the state – my client – to defend the proper operation of state laws. That is the attorney general’s job.”

Lawson said she was a party to that 2017 lawsuit, but Hill said she no longer is; therefore, he had no reason to give her notice. 

One of the parties who filed the lawsuit in 2017 is Common Cause, which calls itself a nonpartisan organization fighting to keep government accountable.

“We are extremely disappointed that Attorney General Curtis Hill is continuing his partisan crusade to deny Marion County voters equal access to early voting,” said Julia Vaughn, the policy director for Common Cause Indiana, in part of her statement to WISH-TV. “It is clear that the Attorney General does not seek to represent the interests of Marion County voters in this matter.”

Hill separately is facing calls to resign from high-profile Republicans, including Lawson, after four women accused him of sexual misconduct, which he denies.