IBLC wins one fight to stop voter suppression, but battle continues on Marion County judges bill

For immediate release:
Feb. 2, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) members were successful this week at stopping one measure aimed at voter disenfranchisement, but the fight against taking the election of Marion County Superior Court judges out of the hands of the public will continue.

State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) said the IBLC and other officials halted legislation aimed at voter disenfranchisement through precinct consolidation in Lake County (House Bill 1147) when State Rep. Milo Smith (R-Columbus), chairman of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, said the proposal would not be considered again this session. IBLC officials said defeat of the legislation was among the group’s highest priorities for 2017.

“We are delighted to see that Chairman Smith recognized our arguments that this was a shaky attempt at denying minority voting in Lake County,” Brown said. “Rather than working to deny people a vote, we need to be pursuing policies that encourage people to vote, and give them every opportunity to exercise that right.”

Brown also expressed his appreciation to Smith for allowing Lake County election officials, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and other state and local elected officials, and State NAACP Chairwoman Barbara Bolling to testify against the bill.

The battle over a second effort at voter disenfranchisement – House Bill 1036, which takes away the rights of Marion County voters to elect Superior Court judges – now moves to the Indiana Senate. The House Republican supermajority approved the measure by a 68-29 margin. A list of how legislators voted is available at this link.

“We know that a judicial mandate requires a new system for electing Marion County Superior Court judges,” State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) said. “Unfortunately, the solution offered through House Bill 1036 would make Marion the fifth Indiana county to deny voters the chance to have a voice in the selection process by making judges appointed rather than elected.”

Pryor said that the deliberative process that led to House Bill 1036 did not include minorities in determining the new system for how the Marion County judges would be chosen. She noted that the four counties that currently deny an opportunity to vote on judges – Allen, Lake, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh – all have large numbers of minorities, as well as Democrats.

“This legislation takes away the ability of Marion County taxpayers to pick who will serve on the bench, pure and simple,” Pryor said.

“While it is disappointing to see that the House has chosen to support such a policy, there is time for the people to convince the Indiana Senate to realize the mistakes being made here, and provide a different path. Rest assured that the IBLC will continue to educate the public and encourage them to speak out on behalf of voter rights.”