NAACP sues Indiana, alleges law targets black, Latino voters

The NAACP is suing Indiana officials to block a new state law that the civil rights group says would discriminate against black and Latino voters in heavily populated Lake County by consolidating voting precincts.

The lawsuit challenges a law that applies only to Lake County, which is home to Indiana's second-largest African-American population and its largest Hispanic population. It alleges that the new law unfairly reassigns large numbers of voters to new polling locations that may be difficult for black and Latino voters with mobility issues or a lack of reliable transportation to reach.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by the Gary NAACP and the Priorities USA Foundation, names Indiana's secretary of state and members of the Indiana Election Division as defendants.

The law, approved this year by state lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, requires Lake County to immediately consolidate precincts with fewer than 600 "active" voters, with limited exceptions, The Indianapolis Star reported. More specifically, it requires the Indiana Election Commission to adopt a consolidation plan by Sept. 1.

Holcomb's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs said in a news release that the change creates longer lines and silences "the voice of these voters in local government."

"All around the country, legislatures are dreaming up new ways to make it more difficult for ordinary Americans to exercise their most fundamental right," said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA. "In Indiana, Gov. Holcomb and some members of the Legislature have shown they are laser-focused on keeping African-American and Hispanic voters in Lake County away from the polls."

The complaint challenges Indiana's law on the grounds that it violates the Voting Rights Act and places an undue burden on the right to vote.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com