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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, August 10, 2018 1:00 am



Hill's obsession with voting restrictions unseemly

Credible charges of inappropriate conduct should have prompted Curtis Hill to step down from office, but the Indiana attorney general is fighting on as an investigation into the allegations against him gets under way. Hoosiers, meanwhile, should take note of Hill's meddling in measures that restrict voters' rights.

The latest example is his challenge to a bipartisan agreement to establish early voting sites in Marion County. Hill filed a motion Tuesday arguing the consent decree was not unanimously approved by the county election board and is contrary to Indiana law and the public interest.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson – represented by the attorney general's office in the case – fired back: “As Indiana's Chief Election Officer, I oppose Attorney General Hill's intervention in the Marion County satellite voting case. I did not ask him to do this. He did not have the professional courtesy to provide me notice of his motion, even though I am named as a party in the suit.”

Lawson went on to correct Hill'sassertion that the election board did not unanimously approve the consent decree.

“By his reckless action, the Attorney General has disrupted more than 18 months of productive, bipartisan conversations,” Lawson said in a statement.

A federal judge agreed, promptly denying Hill's attempt to block the agreement.

Common Cause Indiana and theIndianapolis NAACP filed a lawsuit in May 2017, charging the Marion County Election Board suppressed the rights of minority voters by failing to provide adequate voting locations.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker in April issued a preliminary injunction ordering the county to open more early voting sites, and the consent decree agreed to by all parties was approved last month.

Hill filed a separate motion asking the federal court for a 30-day extension to file a notice of appeal in the case. The attorney general said he needed more time because he did not receive notice of the court's approval of the consent decree until July 11, a day after it was approved by a judge.

But Julia Vaughn, Common CauseIndiana's policy director, said the attorney general's office was notified of the July 3 approval at the same time as all other parties – one day after the groping allegations against Hill surfaced.

“They got the same notice as everybody else did,” Vaughn told the Indianapolis Star. “Now, they may be distracted by other things going on in their office, but they got the same notice that was required by law and that everybody else got.

“The attorney general needs to butt out,” Vaughn said. “He is not protecting the interest of Marion County voters, he's not protecting the interests of voters at large in our state, he is simply trying to act in a partisan way to satisfy a few hardcore partisans.”

In April, Hill's office intervened in another election issue better left alone. The attorney general led an 11-state, all-GOP coalition in support of an Alabama state law requiring photo IDs from prospective voters, filing an amicus brief warning that overturning that law could create uncertainty about the validity of state photo-ID laws generally and discourage other states from enacting such measures.

As the brief itself states, Indiana's victory before the Supreme Court a decade ago in its own voter ID case makes the issue settled law. There is no reason for the attorney general to devote state time and resources to its further defense.

Fort Wayne attorney Dan Sigler was named as special prosecutor investigating the misconduct allegations against Hill. He will decide whether a criminal prosecution is warranted.

But regardless of the outcome of Sigler's inquiry, the attorney general's continuing preoccupation with measures restricting voter rights shouldn't be overlooked by voters themselves.