Herring v. Marion County Election Board

Date Filed: 10/22/2008

On October 24, 2008, LDF settled a lawsuit filed just two days earlier, and designed to protect the voting rights of foreclosure victims. The suit, Herring v. Marion County Election Board, was filed in Indiana state court to ensure that eligible voters who may have faced the threat of foreclosure could not have their right to vote challenged during the 2008 presidential election. The case followed threats that party operatives intended to mount these foreclosure challenges. In the settlement, the parties agreed that such challenges are not permitted under Indiana law.

The case was filed on behalf of an African-American family that fell behind on their home payments and faced the threat of foreclosure in the two years prior to the election. The Greater Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP, which provided advocacy on behalf of families facing foreclosure in the region, joined the family as Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs were uncertain of their legal right to cast a regular ballot after statements were attributed to the Marion County Republican Party Chairman, who maintained that foreclosure was a “solid basis” for challenging voter eligibility on Election Day, and the Circuit Clerk, who disagreed.

The sole question before the court was whether or not voters facing foreclosure could have their right to vote challenged. LDF President and Director Counsel John Payton referred to challenges based on voters’ foreclosure status as “the kind of voter suppression tactic that threatens our efforts to move towards an open and equal Democracy.” Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Marion County Election Board was instructed to make it clear to any party authorized to issue challenges that foreclosure or eviction is not a permissible basis for challenging voters on Election Day, among other things.

LDF filed the case with the assistance of local attorneys Nathaniel Lee and Cherry Malichi, of the Indianapolis law firm of Lee, Cossell, Kuehn & Love, LLP, and the Baltimore-based NAACP.