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Hoosiers Voters Can't Ask State Courts To Keep Polls Open Longer If Problems Arise

Voters lined up in Perry Township

More than 400 people wait in line to vote early in Indianapolis. Indiana voters cannot ask state courts to extend polling hours on Election Day if there are problems at the polls, according to a 2019 Indiana law. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Indiana voters cannot ask state courts to extend polling hours on Election Day if there are problems at the polls.

That’s after a federal appeals court upheld a 2019 Indiana law that only allows a county election board to file such a lawsuit.

The law says the election board can only sue if both major parties agree to it. And it also binds the judge’s hands – the court can only extend polling hours if the polling place shut down on Election Day. If, for instance, there was a shortage of ballots but the polling place never closed, a judge couldn’t keep it open past 6 p.m.

Last month, a federal judge found that law unconstitutionally denied people their right to vote. And he pointed to specific, recent examples in Indiana where that would have happened if the law had been in place.

READ MORE: Can I Vote By Mail? Here's What You Need To Know For Indiana's Elections

But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. In its ruling, the appeals court found the law helps avoid “clogging” state courts with Election Day requests – while also noting Hoosier voters can sue in federal courts to keep the polls open.

The appellate decision also said U.S. Supreme Court precedent directs courts not to change election laws so close to Election Day.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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