ICLU AND BROAD COALITION OF PLAINTIFFS CHALLENGE NEW VOTING RIGHTS RESTRICTION

April 28, 2005. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of a broad coalition of plaintiffs including State Representative William Crawford, the Indianapolis Chapter of the NAACP, United Senior Action, Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living, Indiana Coalition for Housing and Homelessness Issues, the civil rights organization Concerned Clergy and Washington Township (Indpls.) Board representative Joseph Simpson, today filed suit in Marion County Superior Court challenging Indiana’s new law, Senate Bill 483, the most restrictive voting requirement in the nation.

The bill signed into law by Governor Daniels on April 27th mandates that government-issued photo identification be presented in order for most Hoosier citizens to cast their ballots. “This new requirement puts a substantial and unnecessary burden of time and cost for some potential voters, and thus clearly violates the federal Voting Rights Act, the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution,” said ICLU Legal Director Kenneth Falk.

In the suit, the plaintiffs say they represent Hoosiers who, because of cost, age or disability, will not be able to cast their ballots under Indiana’s new law, which imposes the strictest voting barriers in the United States. Although the law allows some photo ID’s to be obtained without cost from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, there is a cost to obtain birth certificates and other documents that are prerequisites for obtaining the BMV identification.

I am honored to be a litigant in this suit to insure that no one is denied the right to vote based on unreasonable assumptions, Crawford said.

“After serving their country, many of the very people who fought in two World Wars to preserve Americans’ right to vote will be prevented from voting if this new law takes effect,” said Michelle Niemier, executive director of United Senior Action of Indiana, a statewide advocacy organization representing 14,000 dues paying members. “To force thousands of older Hoosiers living in nursing homes, assisted living residences or even in their own homes but who no longer can physically get around to go to the absurd step of getting a ‘government issued’ ID is the biggest disservice I have heard of in a very long time.”

Melissa Madill, executive director of the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living, said, “People living in supported and group home settings often do not have access to their ID’s. People experiencing mobility impairments, especially those living in rural areas, face transportation barriers making it nearly impossible for them to get to the license branch to acquire ID’s. Additionally, with an unemployment rate of nearly 70%, the poverty level of this population makes it difficult for them to “purchase” state issued identification.”

The suit asks for an injunction preventing the new law from taking effect prior to any future elections. No hearing has been set yet, and the next scheduled elections in Indiana are primary elections in May, 2006.

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