News & Politics

Voter Suppression Battle In Northwest Indiana

Democrats want to open satellite voting centers, while Republicans favor voting only at county seats.
It appears that Lake County, IN may be the latest arena in the GOP's effort to suppress the vote in swing states

First some basics. Under Indiana election law, early voting can only take place in a county clerk's main office. This clearly could be problematic in areas where the county seat is far in distance from the most heavily populated parts of the county. Therefore, the law gives each board of elections the authority to approve early voting centers elsewhere in their county.

Lake County's geography provides the perfect argument for these "satellite" polling places. The county seat, Crown Point, is the 7th most populous city in the county (pop. 24,000) and centrally located. Meanwhile, three of the four biggest municipalities -- Gary (pop. 96,000), Hammond (pop. 77,000), and East Chicago (pop. 30,000) are all located at the northern edge of the county, along Lake Michigan. Together, these towns hold more than 40 percent of the county's residents. Moreover, Gary and Hammond are the fifth and sixth largest cities in the state.

It's in the city clerk's offices in these three towns that the Democratic members of the Lake County Board of Elections wanted to open up satellite voting centers. After all, it's about an hour roundtrip drive to Crown Point from any of them.

But on September 24, the two Republican members of the elections board voted against doing so. Their explanation is that Lake County Democratic chairman Rudy Clay made an agreement early in the year with GOP chairman John Corley to allow satellite voting during the state's presidential primary, but not during the general election.

Why wouldn't the Republicans want residents of these three cities to have easier access to early voting in the weeks leading up to this historic election? Because they're heavily minority, heavily low-income, and heavily Democratic.