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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 20, 2019 1:00 am

Trial set for June in '16 inmate voting flap

Federal suit says Gladieux denied rights to hundreds

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Clarification

A previous online version of this story did not fully state when convicted felons in Indiana are prohibited from voting. They cannot vote while serving time, but their voting rights are restored when their sentences are completed.

A judge has set a June trial date in a federal lawsuit alleging Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux prevented hundreds of jail inmates from voting in the 2016 presidential election. 

The class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne claims Gladieux “systematically disenfranchised hundreds of eligible voters held in the Allen County Jail during the 2016 general election by refusing to provide them absentee ballots or alternative access to the polls.”

Gladieux has denied the allegations.

A pretrial conference is slated for May 19, and Judge Damon R. Leichty scheduled a five-day jury trial June 8. The trial will be held in U.S. District Court in South Bend. 

Demetrius Buroff and Ian Barnhart say in court documents they were in jail on Election Day but were not allowed to vote. They are seeking unspecified damages. 

Convicted felons serving time in Indiana are barred from voting; their voting rights are restored when their sentences are completed. Buroff was jailed in October 2016 on misdemeanor charges, and Barnhart was held on felony charges but hadn't been convicted. 

State jail standards say administrators should arrange for eligible inmates to vote by absentee ballot, according to court documents, but the rules do not specify how that should be accomplished. 

Few inmates take the opportunity to vote, Allen County elections officials have said.

The lawsuit could apply to more than 300 inmates, court documents state.

mleblanc@jg.net