A dozen people including two members of the nonprofit Indiana Vote by Mail organization on Wednesday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Indiana Election Commission and Indiana Secretary of State.
The lawsuits seeks to expand no-excuse absentee voting to the November general election.
The lawsuit contends the state's election law allowing some -- but not all -- registered voters to vote by mail violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitutions and the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution.
The lawsuit includes 12 plaintiffs, including two of whom are members of the Indiana Vote by Mail, which is based in Indianapolis.
“Due to the unprecedented and ongoing health emergency, the (Indiana Election) Commission’s failure to extend no-excuse voting by mail to the general election will force many voters who are under 65 years of age to vote in-person at public polling sites, potentially endangering their health and perhaps even their lives," the group said in a news release.
"This is not a choice voters should be forced to make,” wrote Barbara Tully of Marion County, the lead plaintiff and president of Indiana Vote By Mail.
Tully has worked as a poll inspector over the past several years but will not this year specifically because of the danger posed by COVID-19, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are residents of Marion, Hamilton and St. Joseph counties.
The lawsuit contends that voters who do not qualify to vote by mail lack a reasonable alternative to in-person voting and are being treated differently than voters who are entitled by law to mail in an absentee ballot.
Tully referred to the Wisconsin primary election as an example of what Indiana must avoid.
“We saw what happened in Wisconsin, when voters were faced with using polling sites, and the COVID-19 outbreak cases from voting there continue to increase. We must not allow a similar fiasco to happen in Indiana," she said.
The lawsuit seeks to require the state to extend the right to vote by mail to the plaintiffs and all registered voters.
Indiana Vote by Mail also filed a federal lawsuit against the Indiana Election Commission in October 2019 claiming direct-recording electronic voting (DRE) machines used in 58 counties violates voters’ federal and state constitutional rights to have their votes “recorded and tabulated in an accurate, verifiable, and equal manner.”
The DRE machines do not produce any paper documentation. In that lawsuit, Indiana Vote by Mail contended voters cast their ballots on a touch-screen but receive no paper trail that would allow them to confirm their ballots are accurate. The Indiana General Assembly in 2019 passed legislation that requires all counties to stop using the machines by 2030.
A bench trial in that case has been scheduled for August 23, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.