Indiana Primary Election Law Challenged In Court

A recent Indiana law that restricts potential primary ballot access is being challenged in state court. Critics claim that the law as currently written protects the party establishment.

The new law allowed county political chairs to have increased latitude to decide which of their party’s candidates made it to the primary ballot.

However, this new law is being challenged in court, stemming from a candidate being denied a slot on the 2022 primary ballot. Former state legislature candidate Amy Rainey was disallowed ballot access in her race for state representatives. The case has been heard in an Indianapolis trial court and the state’s Court of Appeals last week.

The 2022 change to state election law restricts the ability of candidates to appear on primary ballots. In non-federal elections, candidates must have voted in their party’s last two primary elections.

This would restrict the ability of candidates who were a member of a different party or recently registered or moved to the state. For those that do not meet this threshold, the candidate must have their membership in the party and residence verified by county political chairs.

Rainey claims that Elkhart County Republican Chairman Dan Holtz filed a challenge against her candidacy. The former candidate had moved to South Carolina but upon returning to Indiana had not voted in the 2018 or 2020 primaries, in part due to a cancer diagnosis.

Rainey said that the county chair said that he would consider her candidacy. Rainey’s appeal to make it on the ballot failed before the Indiana Election Commission.

The new law has been especially beneficial to incumbent candidates, whose challengers were removed from the ballot. The Federalist reported that state Rep. Joanna King (R-IN), Rainey’s opponent, ran unopposed.

The challenges to the election ruling made it to Marion County Superior Court, as well as to the state’s Court of Appeals. In 2022, the Election Commission heard ten such cases and denied ballot access for nine of the candidates.

Critics believe that the new law is intended to shield incumbents from primary challenges within their own party.

The lawsuit against the new Indiana state election law may be a major precedent for new candidates seeking office. Following the candidacy of former President Donald Trump, a number of new candidates and voters entered the political field.

Several high-profile primary challengers unseated Republican incumbents recently, including the high-profile Congressional race in Wyoming. Incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was defeated by future Rep. Harriet Hageman in a lopsided 2022 primary.