WHITING, IN - MAY 03: A sign hangs on a polling place door on May 3, 2016 in Whiting, Indiana. Indiana voters are casting ballots today to decide Republican and Democrat presidential nominees.
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Appeals Court Limits Ability to Sue to Extend Polling Hours

(CHICAGO, Ill.) — Don’t count on an extension of Indiana’s six p.m. poll closing time on Election Day.

It’s rare, but judges have occasionally ordered polling places to stay open later because of problems,
like running out of ballots. A law passed last year blocked anyone but the county election board from
suing unless the polling place didn’t open on time.

Federal Judge Richard L. Young blocked that law last month, ruling those limits were too strict when
the right to vote is at stake. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed him and reinstated the law. The court says it’s not judges’ job to second-guess legislators, and says while voters may
encounter inconveniences, that’s not the same as denying the right to vote.

Neither the law nor the appeals court ruling prevents you from going to court, but you’d have to show a federal constitutional violation. Attorney Greg Schweizer, who challenged the law on behalf of Common Cause of Indiana, says that’s a tougher standard to meet, and typically requires showing a government action caused harm, as opposed to something like a power outage.

Common Cause policy director Julia Vaughn calls the ruling disappointing, but says the organization
will still be tracking any voting problems, with an eye to asking legislators next year to make any
necessary revisions to keep polling places running smoothly.

A separate law says if you’re in line at 6 p.m., you get to vote no matter how long it takes to get
everyone through the line.


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