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Indy Mayoral Fracas Exposes Major NVRA Violations

Sep 6, 2019 (Indianapolis) Federal District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled late last night to deny John Schmitz’ emergency motion for a preliminary injunction that would have ordered the Marion County Election Board to allow him on the ballot, and opined that Schmitz’ plea had “shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their First and Fourteenth Amendment claims,” but the overwhelming evidence of sloppy voter list maintenance goes far beyond the First and Fourteenth Amendments and those merits will be the undoing of the Indiana duopoly that enlisted thier partisan Election Board members to keep Schmitz off the ballot. (See her ruling here.)

On two occasions (July 23 and July 30), VIP has laid out the story behind Schmitz’ efforts to run as an independent mayoral candidate in Indiana’s state capitol against an incumbent Democrat Mayor and his college fraternity brother opponent from the Republican Party. We later explained how election officials had used their own incompetence as the excuse for not allowing him on the ballot and how those underlying facts will lead to an ugly defeat for Indiana’s Secretary of State, Connie Lawson.

Last night, Judge Pratt denied the emergency injunction, without seeing the evidence we’re about to disclose. We reviewed this with three election law attorneys, two of whom were former Department of Justice officials, and all expressed shock at the level of ineptness indicated by the facts uncovered by Schmitz’ defense team.

We begin with the petitions which (among other things) require the voter to list their current residence address. To be clear, both Indiana law and the ballot instructions prohibit the listing of an address other than the one at which they currently reside. The Election Board rejected 1,115 signatures over the petition address not matching the older address they had in their files. If they had claimed their previous address, they would have violated state law.

Meet Anna Louise Svec

The most glaring example of the Election Board’s lawsuit-worthy “unreasonable” voter list maintenance involves the matter of Marion County resident, Anna Svec.

More than three years ago, on June 15, 2016. she obtained an updated license from the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles with her new Southgreen Drive address.

Had it been her first time obtaining an Indiana driver license,1993’s National Voter Registration Act (also called NVRA or “Motor Voter”), would require her state’s DMV to provide her the opportunity to register to vote.

Hers was either an address update or a renewal, but in either case, 52 US Code §20507 (a)(4) requires the designated State Election Official to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters by reason of . . . a change in residence of the registrant.”

Unlike NC law, in Indiana, their State Election Official is their Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, but the DMV is heavily involved in the process as well. In North Carolina, it’s the State Board of Election, and they are currently under an NVRA lawsuit over their refusal to provide documentation that they’re actually doing any list maintenance work at all. Meanwhile, Indiana accidentally proved they’re not, thanks to the Schmitz case . . . but I digress.

Last summer, on July 1, 2019, the Marion County Elections Office received John Schmitz’ candidate petition and Ms. Svec had signed it, listing her (then) current address, which was the same 5129 South Green Drive, Indianapolis address she had on her license.

Despite the fact that Svec had updated her DMV record in 2016, the summer before a presidential election, Indiana’s DMV and their Secretary of State never bothered to update their records. Nor did they perform their list maintenance duties during the subsequent three years.

The State’s Shameful Response

After not doing their job for three-plus years, election officials blundered further, by acting improperly with the signed evidence presented by Svec, attesting to her new address.

This is down in the weeds, but in NC, whenever a voter reports their new address, election officials respond by mailing their new registration card to their new address. The card lists their new precinct location and informs them of everything from their Congressional District to their Soil & Water Board District. In addition to updating the voter, those mailings also serve to “verify” the voter’s new address.

Among the more breathtaking presumptions of Motor Voter is that postal officials have 100 percent knowledge of every resident on their route, so the voter’s registration is deemed “verified” as long as the mailed card is not returned “undeliverable” by the Post Office.

We can only imagine a similar process in Indiana (and will update this story with the exact statute when available), but Indiana officials took no action with Svec’s address information, other than to use that as an excuse to reject it on the petition.

Because they had not performed their list-maintenance duties under Motor Voter, Svec joined 1,114 other voters in having their voice heard. Schmitz only needed 751 of them in order to gain ballot access.

Meet Juan Javier Ramos

Mr. Ramos’ story matches that of Svec in every way except for one. His was a shorter timeline. He updated his (DMV-issued) Indiana Identification Card on April 10, 2019, listing his address as 1033 E. Washington Street.

In June, Ramos signed Schmitz’ candidacy petition, using that same Washington Street address, and just as in Svec’s case, election officials punished Ramos and Schmitz for their own bureaucratic inefficiency.

Thanks to Judge Pratt’s erroneous ruling, the bad guys kept Schmitz from upsetting Indianapolis’ politics.

There are no doubt others, and that information will all come out during the discovery phase of his Civil-rights and NVRA lawsuit. Remember: The state has already admitted that all 1,115 rejected signatures were lawful voters in Marion county, so the attorneys I spoke with suggested this evidence merits an open-and-shut case, but this story gets even worse . . . if you are part of Indiana’s governed class.

Taxpayer-Funded Posterior Protection

Under a different section of that same NVRA statute, “the court may allow the prevailing party (other than the United States) reasonable attorney fees, including litigation expenses, and costs.”

Normally, these fees are used as a bargaining chip during the pre-trial arbitration; but we would advise against such a friendly gesture in this case, because these election officials abused the system they’re supposed to manage.

Regardless of Schmitz’ viability in the mayoral race, he followed the law and so did the 1,115 confirmed Marion County voters who signed his petition in good faith, only to have their “vote-by-signature” suppressed by a two-party cleptocracy.

Secretary of State Lawson may have been the last person with the chance to unscrew this mess before last night’s tragic ruling, but she didn’t. As a result, Indiana taxpayers will cough up tens of thousands in legal fees that her crack legal staff will spend in trying to rescue her career . . . and as an added bonus to the Indiana taxpayers, they also get to pay the attorneys who represent Schmitz, when . . . not if . . . his side prevails.

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