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PERRY COUNTY - Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to determine if Tell City High School should undergo up to $10 million worth of work should take identification with them, despite a September ruling that the voter-identification law is unconstitutional.
A news release e-mailed to The News Thursday by the office of Secretary of State Todd Rokita asserts that a voter-identification law enacted in 2005 but struck down in September by the state's court of appeals remains in effect.
"We conclude that the Voter I.D. law violates Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 23, and must be declared void because it regulates voters in a manner that is not uniform and impartial," wrote appellate-court judges in deciding a case pursued against Rokita by Indianapolis and Indiana offices of the League of Women Voters.
"A recent ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals regarding the state's Voter ID law is not final at this time," Rokita's news release asserts, "and will have no impact on compliance with the law, absentee balloting procedures, or any other procedure during this special election cycle."
The League of Women Voters had claimed that a requirement for people voting at regular polling sites to present identification was unconstitutional because the same burden of proof was not required for voters casting absentee ballots.
The League also pointed out that voters residing at licensed care facilities that are also polling locations are treated unequally under the law in that they are not required to produce identification in order to vote.
In Perry County elections, that applies to residents of Twilight Towers.
"All qualified voters must be treated uniformly and impartially," the appellate judges wrote. "We fail to see how the Voter I.D. Law's exception of those residing in state-licensed care facilities, which happen to also be a polling place, would be a uniform or impartial regulation."
The judges disagreed with other contentions made by the League, such as their assertion that the voter-identification law was an improper attempt to change voting qualifications.
Rokita's news release noted Perry and nine other counties will conduct special elections Tuesday, and some Hamilton County voters will go to the polls Nov. 10. All of the polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
County attorney Chris Goffinet told The News Friday the county must abide by the law until the state Supreme Court responds to the September ruling.
The Indiana Rules of Court say an appellate-court opinion is final unless a petition for transfer has been granted by the Supreme Court, he said, and "if the Supreme Court grants transfer, the appellate court decision is vacated and of no effect."
Bryan Corbin, press secretary for policy and litigation in the state attorney general's office, said Friday such a petition was filed Oct. 16.
"The status of the appellate court decision is in limbo until the petition to transfer is either rejected or granted by the Supreme Court," Goffinet said.
With 11 elections looming, would the state's highest court fast-track a decision on the issue?
"I believe there are procedures that allow a party to ask for an expedited appeal at the initial appellate level," Goffinet explained, "but do not see similar rules at the Supreme Court level."
Neither does that court have a time limit to decide if it will allow the appeal, he continued. "If it does not allow the appeal, the appellate decision stands. If it does allow the appeal, the parties have a briefing schedule to follow. While the appellate court has ruled that the law is unconstitutional, that opinion is not final yet and does not yet apply."
The Supreme Court could take until mid-December just to decide to hear the case, the lawyer said, and under the briefing schedule, may not rule on it until some time next year.