Bowes v. Ind. Sec'y of State, No. 16-2350 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
In November 2012, 18 months before Indiana’s primary election, Common Cause sought a declaration that Indiana Code 33– 33–49–13 violated its members’ First Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote. The statute established the system for electing Marion Superior Court judges, providing that a political party could not nominate through the primary election more than half of the candidates eligible to sit on that court. Political parties eligible to hold primaries were those whose candidates for Indiana Secretary of State received at least 10 percent of the votes cast in the last general election; since 1952, only the Republican and Democratic parties have met that threshold, effectively limiting the candidates that could be selected by the voters. Marion County was the only place in the country to employ such a process. While the litigation was pending, Marion County held its primary election. There were 16 open Superior Court positions; eight Republican and 11 Democratic candidates (including plaintiffs) ran. Plaintiffs spent almost no effort campaigning and did poorly. The statute was declared unconstitutional before the general election. Plaintiffs sought a special election, to vindicate their constitutional rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that a special election was not appropriate, given the potential burdens on the county as weighed against plaintiffs’ interest in being placed on the ballot and the voters’ interest in casting a meaningful vote.