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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Former Council Member Loses Disenfranchisement Case

Roseland Town Council member Snyder was arrested after he and another council member engaged in a fist fight at a council meeting.  While serving out his jail sentence, his voter registration was canceled pursuant to state law. When he tried to vote, he was turned away and he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the State of Indiana Election Division and county election officials, claiming that his temporary disenfranchisement violated federal voter laws and his constitutional rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments.  

The district court referred the constitutional question to the Indiana Supreme Court determined that state law only authorized cancellation of voter rights for "infamous crimes," which did not include his battery conviction. However, the court determined that he could have, but failed to, re-register after he was released from jail.

The district court dismissed the case on immunity and mootness grounds, and Snyder appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Snyder v. King (7th Cir. Mar. 11, 2014).  The 7th Circuit affirmed the dismissal, finding that Snyder did not state a civil rights case against either the state or the county officials, and that there was no local "policy" in place that deprived Snyder of any constitutional rights or protections.  Instead, the state law requiring voter registration cancellation upon imprisonment was mandatory, and the officials had no discretion in removing him from the voter rolls.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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