Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Win in Challenge to Marion County’s Judicial Election System

“The Statute at issue burdens the right to cast a meaningful vote.”

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
September 9, 2015 12:45 pm

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Indianapolis –Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a district court ruling and declared that the method of electing Marion Superior Court judges is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, brought by Common Cause Indiana represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, challenged the constitutionality of Indiana Code § 33-33-49-13, which results in each major party nominating candidates for only one half of judicial vacancies.

The statute effectively removed any choice from voters and rendered the election of judges a mere formality. Voters in Marion County who did not cast a ballot in the primary election had absolutely no say in electing judges. Even people who did vote in the primary election had a say in only half of the judgeships.

“There is no more important right in our Constitution than that of exercising a meaningful vote,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “We are very pleased that the Court’s decision forcefully reaffirms that right.”

The Seventh Circuit ruling held that: “When an election law reduces or forecloses the opportunity for electoral choice, it restricts a market where a voter might effectively and meaningfully exercise his choice between competing candidates, and thus severely burdens the right to vote.” The Court concluded that this severe burden was not justified.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of Common Cause Indiana in November, 2012.

The ruling in Common Cause Indiana v. Indiana Secretary of State, et al., Case: 14-3300, was entered in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on September 9, 2015.

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