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.
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
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
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.