Appeals court rules Marion County judicial elections unconstitutional

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Indy Star on 09/09/2015 by Kristine Guerra

7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds prior ruling against system of ensuring a seat for judicial candidates slated by their parties.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a previous ruling that deemed unconstitutional Marion County’s system of electing judges, a rare process in which judicial candidates who get party nominations for the primary election are assured of a seat.

The opinion, issued Wednesday, says the current state law governing how judges are elected in Marion County imposes a “severe burden” on a person’s right to vote and, therefore, violates the First and Fourteenth amendments. The appeals court judges issued the ruling nearly a year after a federal district judge found the state law unconstitutional and about three years after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit challenging the statute.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit in November 2012 on behalf of Common Cause Indiana and against the members of the Indiana Election Commission. Common Cause argued that under the current law, voters are unable to cast a meaningful vote because candidates who get slated by the two major political parties already are guaranteed victory in the general election.