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With Federal Lawsuit Pending, GOP and Dems Renew Fight Over Early Voting

Democrats slam Republican proposal to pair expanded early voting with switch to centralized "vote centers"

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Marion County Republicans are offering a deal on a seven-year stalemate over early voting, but Democrats aren't biting.

Common Cause is suing to force Marion County to offer more early voting locations. State law lets either party block early voting, and Republicans have. The lawsuit notes their counterparts in heavily Republican neighboring counties have expanded early voting, while Democratic-dominated Marion County has been limited since 2010 to the City-County Building, which is hard to reach and has little nearby parking. 

With a federal court scheduling a settlement conference for Tuesday, Republicans are proposing that Marion County join 29 counties in doing away with traditional precincts and letting you vote at any of 99 "vote centers," 11 in each township. They say some of those locations could offer early voting as well. 

County Democratic Chair Kate Sweeney Bell notes the change would abolish two-thirds of the county's polling places, and charges that would make voting harder, not easier. In a statement, she says Republican Chairman Jim Merritt, whose state Senate district spans both Marion and Hamilton Counties, should be willing to support the same voting system in both counties.

Republican election board member Melissa Thompson argues vote centers make voting easier because instead of being locked in to one polling place, you can vote wherever's most convenient.

Thompson maintains Republicans have blocked early voting because Democratic county clerks haven't given them input on where those voting locations would be. Republicans have previously argued satellite voting would cost too much and create security concerns. Thompson says eliminating 200 precincts would save the county money, some of which could support early voting.

(Photo: nerthuz/Thinkstock)


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