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early voting, early voting in Gary
Paul Beaty/AP
People wait in line to vote at the Lake County Superior Court House in Gary,
Ind., Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008.

Early Voting Court Battle Goes to Indiana Supreme Court

October 17, 2008 06:30 AM
by Emily Coakley
Party officials in Indiana are fighting over the legality of Lake County early voting sites, as more and more states adopt the practice.

State Supreme Court Gets Involved

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Early voting sites in Lake County, Ind., have opened, though a court battle surrounding their legitimacy continues.

This week the Indiana State Supreme Court allowed voting sites in East Chicago, Gary and Hammond to remain open until the matter is settled, according to the Associated Press. The state’s high court mediated because the two lower courts were in disagreement.

On Wednesday, the court decided to appoint a judge to hear the case since attorneys couldn’t agree.

Lake County, which is next to Chicago in the northwestern corner of Indiana, is said to be “key to an Obama victory,” the AP reported. The Hoosier State hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Indiana allows each county to open a single early voting site, and if a county election board unanimously agrees, more sites can be opened, said the Chicago Tribune. Lake County’s election board did not unanimously agree, though three sites were opened, which began the court battle.

Republicans opposed to the additional sites have voiced concern about the possibility of voter fraud at these sites.

The state’s Democratic Chairman, Dan Parker, told the AP that voters have to show a government-issued, photo identification before they can vote at the early sites.

The legal challenge has been a nasty one, with Democrats accusing Republicans of disenfranchisement and using dirty tricks. The head of Indiana’s Republican Party told the AP the charges don’t merit a response.

State GOP officials have also said “that courts might eventually throw out disputed absentee votes” from those sites.

The legal battle comes as early voting sites have opened across the country; more than 30 states now allow the practice. Paul Gronke of the Early Voting Information Center told ABC News, “Early voting has more than doubled in the last eight years.”

Opinion & Analysis: Is early voting good or bad?

Writing in the San Angelo Standard-Times, Jack Cowan said he thinks early voting is good for “America’s civic health,” because it removes barriers to voting.

But the now-defunct New York Sun, in a Sept. 24 editorial, criticized it, saying voters in Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia could cast ballots before any of the presidential debates, Congress’ vote on a financial bailout or any other “October surprises.”

“The way things are headed, by the time 2012 rolls around, the general election voting will begin before the parties have even chosen their candidates,” the editorial said.

In Newsweek, George Will argued that early voting was bad for several reasons, and that Election Day was something special.

“The great national coming-together that Election Day has been and should be is a rare communitarian moment in this nation of increasingly inwardly turned individualists who are plugged into their iPods or lost in reveries with their iPhones,” Will wrote.

He is also concerned about voter fraud, and says voters are shortening the time they have to learn about the candidates by voting early.

Cowan said he understands what Will means about Election Day being special.

“I enjoy everything about walking into the polling place on Election Day. It’s invigorating and exciting. It rejuvenates my sense of patriotism,” Cowan wrote.

A Greensboro News-Record editorial says, “The election system is becoming more user-friendly, and that’s a boost for democracy.”

But the editorial goes on to say that early voting is not for everyone.

“Voting first but foolishly doesn’t gain anything. Early is good for voters who are ready but premature for those who are still undecided.”

Reference: Election 2008

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