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8/19/2017 6:37:00 PM
Indiana Election Commission again fails to OK Lake County precinct consolidation
Members of the Indiana Election Commission meet Aug. 18, 2017 at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. From left, GOP Commissioner Zachary Klutz; GOP Commissioner Bryce Bennett Jr., the chairman; Democratic Commissioner pro tempore Karen Celestino-Horseman; and Democratic Commissioner Suzannah Wilson Overholt.  Staff photo by Dan Carden
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Members of the Indiana Election Commission meet Aug. 18, 2017 at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. From left, GOP Commissioner Zachary Klutz; GOP Commissioner Bryce Bennett Jr., the chairman; Democratic Commissioner pro tempore Karen Celestino-Horseman; and Democratic Commissioner Suzannah Wilson Overholt.  Staff photo by Dan Carden

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — It appears increasingly likely that the Indiana Election Commission will not meet its Sept. 1 statutory deadline to approve a consolidation plan for Lake County's numerous "small" voting precincts.

On Friday, the four-member commission again was unable to secure the three votes needed to ratify the consolidation proposal recommended by Lake GOP Chairman Daniel Dernulc.

His plan calls for eliminating 154 of the county's 523 precincts, mostly those with fewer than 600 active voters, to save taxpayers an estimated $102,530 at each election through reduced polling place staffing costs. 

Lake Democratic Chairman James Wieser refused to submit a plan because he claims the consolidation mandate imposed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly is likely to disenfranchise voters, particularly in Hammond, East Chicago and Gary, where the bulk of the precincts would be eliminated.

Just as they did last week, the two Republican election commissioners voted in favor of the consolidation proposal, while the two Democratic commissioners opposed it.

At least three "yes" votes are required for the commission to take any action. 

Republican Bryce Bennett, Jr., the commission chairman, said he may call another meeting prior to the deadline to see if there is any way to resolve the deadlock.

Meanwhile, the Indiana NAACP has requested a federal judge issue an emergency injunction halting consolidation while its challenge to the constitutionality of the mandate contained in Senate Enrolled Act 220 is pending in court.

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