Early voting opens in Indiana

October 14, 2008 6:27:11 PM PDT
Early voting for the November election is under way in parts of Indiana. Satellite early voting centers opened in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago while a court fight continued. Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins ruled Tuesday that voting can continue at early voting sites in those three cities.

Republicans argued that closing these early voting centers is all about preventing fraud, while Democrats contended that it's about making it more difficult for some of Barack Obama's supporters to cast ballots in his most loyal county in this battleground state.

There was an earlier ruling Tuesday morning that opened in-person satellite early voting centers in East Chicago, Gary and Hammond. Lawyers indicated the case is already in the hands of the Indiana Supreme Court for consideration.

Up until now, early voting had only been allowed in the county seat in Crown Point.

"Disenfranchising people, that's all this is about. We should never have taken this to court. It should be an easy decision to have early voting. In Chicago, you have almost 95 early voting stations open. But in Lake County, Indiana, we only have one. We have zero in Gary. That's totally unfair," said Mayor Rudy Clay, Gary.

"I wanted to get my vote in early, because the long lines and I'm right next door, and that's so I figure just get it over with," said Valerie Williams, early voter.

"People with busy schedules, and things come up. I did an early vote so I wouldn't have any excuse," said Aaron Smith, early voter.

There was no shortage of people voting in Gary Tuesday afternoon just as soon as the judge ruled the satellite voting centers could open.

Indiana is a battleground state with 11 electoral votes. The latest polls have John McCain with a roughly 4 percent advantage in the state.

In the primary race between Obama and Hillary Clinton, while Clinton narrowly won the state, Obama carried Lake County. He got 90 percent of the vote in Gary alone.

"One of the risks here is that they'll rush people in and vote and then have them not counted at some later point. We thought it important to get it settled before those people voted so there wasn't that risk," said David Brooks, Lake Co. Indiana GOP attorney.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hawkins said he was suspicious of the rush to get polling places open so soon after a different judge's ruling Tuesday morning, but to close the early voting locations in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago now would, in his words, "cause too much chaos."

"This court is not going to be a party to any disenfranchisement of legitimate voters," Hawkins said.

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