INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier senators agreed Monday that if the Indiana Election Commission is unable to adopt a consolidation plan by July 1 for Lake County election precincts with fewer than 600 active voters then the task will fall to Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson.
The Republican-controlled Senate, on an unrecorded voice vote, amended House Bill 1383 to include provisions recommended by state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, for ending the election commission deadlock that dates back to last August.
The revised measure is expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday. A House concurrence to the change will advance the proposal to the governor.
A 2017 state law requires Lake County's "small precincts" be merged to reduce the county's election staffing and equipment costs.
After county election officials last spring failed to agree on a consolidation plan, the mandate shifted to the four-member Indiana Election Commission that likewise repeatedly has been unable to garner the three votes needed for approval.
The commission on Friday is scheduled to try again. Any adopted consolidation plan wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2019.
Records show Lake County has the most small precincts in Indiana with 283 of its 523 precincts recording fewer than 600 active voters.
The Indiana NAACP separately has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the precinct consolidation mandate impedes minority voting rights since most of the precincts due to be consolidated are located in Gary and East Chicago.
That case is scheduled for trial in September.