Common Cause Indiana v. Marion County Election Board, No. 18-2735 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Indiana counties maintain three‐member election boards: the circuit court clerk and two individuals the clerk appoints, one from each major political party. Marion County used a precinct‐based voting system; its Election Board could establish in‐person early voting “satellite offices” annually by unanimous vote. The Board approved in‐person early voting offices for the 2008 presidential election. It did not approve any satellite offices for 2010, 2012, 2014, or 2016; each year, the two Democrat Board members voted in favor of opening satellite offices, while the Republican Board member voted against. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleged that the application of the unanimity requirement and the Republican member’s decision to withhold consent burdened voters’ rights to cast early votes without any relationship to a legitimate government interest. The district court entered a Consent Decree. The Board agreed to establish in‐person early voting satellite offices going forward. The Decree did not address any underlying issues of law. The court denied Indiana’s motion to alter the Decree, finding the Board unanimously ratified the Decree, and that the Decree “was necessary to remedy a probable violation of federal law.” The Board then voted unanimously to replace precinct‐based voting with a vote center plan, with two in‐person early voting satellite offices for primary elections and six for general and municipal elections. Indiana argued the appeal was not moot because the Decree was still in effect. Both sides agreed that the Decree should no longer be in effect. The Seventh Circuit vacated the Decree, declining to address whether the court had authority to enter it, and remanded with instructions to dismiss.