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Parties await judge's ruling on Lake County early voting

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CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — A judge weighing whether to close down early voting sites in Lake County’s Democratic strongholds questioned local officials about the absentee voting process during visits to the disputed sites.

Lake County Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider toured the Gary, Hammond and East Chicago satellite voting sites Monday and heard hours of testimony and arguments on whether they are legal and fair.

Republicans want to shut down the centers in the largely Democratic county on the grounds that they will increase the likelihood of vote fraud in the Nov. 4 election.

Kavadias-Schneider, who was appointed a special judge in the case by the Indiana Supreme Court, questioned county elections board director Sally LaSota on Monday about the process of early voting and safeguards against vote fraud.

LaSota assured the judge that the elections board staff ensures voters are registered and don’t vote more than once.

When Kavadias-Schneider asked, “What of those who have already voted?” R. Lawrence Steele, a GOP lawyer, replied, “Maybe those votes should be discarded.”

Indiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said Tuesday that Kavadias-Schneider has indicated that she hopes to rule either Tuesday or Wednesday on the satellite voting centers.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said Monday that as long as the people who voted at the satellite sites were legal voters their votes will be counted.

“I know the (GOP) party says they’ll be thrown out, but that’s more scare tactics,” Clay said. “We’ve been talking to lawyers from here all the way up to D.C., and we’re told they can’t be thrown out.”

He said Gary posted a 91 percent vote for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in the May primary. Indiana’s deadline for early voting in the General Election is noon on Nov. 3.

Kavadias-Schneider asked LaSota on Monday about possibly opening even more early in-person voting centers in suburban communities in response to Republican complaints that Democrats have opened voting in the county’s three largest Democratic strongholds.

But Steele told the judge that Republicans don’t want more early voting centers open — they want the Gary, Hammond and East Chicago’s centers closed.

Democrats say the additional early voting centers are needed and appropriate because they are located in branches of the county clerk’s offices. Some Democrats say Republicans are trying to suppress the vote in urban areas that have large minority and low-income residents, who may favor Obama over Republican John McCain.

 

Posted 10/21/2008

 

 

 

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