Early Voting To Proceed in Minority-Heavy Indiana Cities

October 22, 2008 2:58 p.m.

It looks like one of the numerous tricks pulled by Republicans to make it harder for black people to vote isn’t going to work.

A judge in Lake County, Indiana ruled today against a GOP effort to shut down early voting centers set up in predominantly low-income African-American areas of the county.

As we reported earlier this month, county Republicans had sued to have the centers shut down, on the grounds that the law required a unanimous vote of the county election board to set up early voting centers. (The Lake County board had voted 3-2 to open them.)

Without the early voting centers, which were set up in the northern Lake County cities of Hammond, Gary, and East Chicago, residents of those cities would have had to travel over an hour to vote early in the county seat of Crown Point, which is in the southern part of the county. Barack Obama needs a strong turnout in northern Lake County if he’s to have a chance of winning Indiana, a state where he’s been running almost even with John McCain.

The centers have already been open for several weeks, and the court ruled that valid votes already cast will count.

From the ruling by Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider, which was obtained by TPMmuckraker from the Lake County Superior Court:

The Lake County Board of Elections and Registration is hereby enjoined from terminating the operation of in person absentee voting currently being conducted in the offices of the Clerk of the Lake Circuit Court in the courthouse buildings in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago and the offices of the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration in Crown Point.

It is further ordered that all ballots that have already been cast at the early voting locations in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Crown Point shall not be invalidated except for instances of voter fraud.

The GOP may yet appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. But for now, early voting continues in the Democratic stronghold of a key county in a key state.

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