Thursday, November 1, 2012

Common Cause Challenges Indiana Judicial Elections

The Wall Street Journal reports that Common Cause sued the Indiana Secretary of State over judicial elections in Marion County, arguing that the process deprives voters of a meaning vote in violation of the First Amendment.

Here's the problem, from Paragraph 1 of the complaint:

[E]ach of the major political parties--the Democratic and Republican parties--nominates, through primary elections, candidates to fill precisely half of the seats to be filled.  In 2012 and in recent history, no candidate for Marion Superior Court other than those nominated by the major political parties has qualified for the ballot at a general election.  The general election is therefore of no significance whatsoever because the ballot only contains the names of judges who will ultimately be elected; rather, the only meaningful votes cast for Marion Superior Court are cast in the primary elections for the major political parties.  Thus, a person who does not vote in a primary election is never afforded an opportunity to cast a meaningful vote for any judgeship on the Marion Superior Court.  And even a person who votes in one of the primary elections is never afforded an opportunity to cast a meaningful vote for half of the judgeships on the Marion Superior Court.

Under Indiana law, a party gets to nominate candidates for half the number of seats available in the general election.  In theory, this would allow several political parties to nominate candidates for half the seats, thus giving voters a real choice in the general election.  But "in 2012 and in recent history," only the two major political parties nominated candidates.  With just two parties each nominating only half the number of candidates, the general election gives voters no real choice.  Common Cause says that this violates the First Amendment.


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