Ever since it became the first state to adopt a voter ID law, Indiana has been the poster child in the debate over whether it’s actually an attempt at voter suppression.
Now the Indianapolis Star has unveiled an investigation today that appears to uncover a deliberate attempt to favor voters likely to vote Republican.
According to the newspaper analysis, Republican officials expanded early voting in Republican-strong suburbs, while decreasing them in the Democratic-dominant districts of the state — basically, Indianapolis.
Over a period from 2008 to 2016, absentee voting increased 63 percent in the Republican areas while declining 26 percent in the Democratic areas.
The newspaper acknowledges it’s possible population shifts played a part.
Some Republicans blame the dearth of early voting in Marion County on a lack of local funding. “I have never received any type of message that the individuals in charge of Marion County have any interest in spending the money (to expand satellite locations),” said Jim Merritt, chairman of the Marion County Republican Party.
But Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett, a Democrat, told IndyStar he is in favor of adding additional early voting stations to the county’s 2018 budget. And four attempts to expand early voting in Marion County have been approved by Democrats, but blocked by the county’s lone GOP representative on the elections board.
“It is a deliberate attempt by certain people in our government to make voting hard,” said former Marion County Clerk Beth White, a Democrat, who promoted those expansions.
Whatever the motives, it’s a partisan squabble with serious ramifications for a democratic system already strained by claims of foreign tampering and fake news, not to mention presidential candidates describing the system as “rigged.”
After Barack Obama won Marion County in 2008, efforts to open early-voting offices in the county were rejected because a state law requires unanimous approval of the county election board. The Republican member voted against the idea in 2010, the Star reported. A similar negative vote was cast in every election since.