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St. Joseph County Commissioners hire law firm to monitor GOP lawsuit against election board

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Jennifer Weingart
/
WVPE Public Radio

The St. Joseph County Commissioners have approved hiring a law firm to monitor a lawsuit the state and county Republican party filed Monday against the Democratic members of the St. Joseph County Election Board.

It’s the latest development in a fight over allegations that Democratic County Clerk Rita Glenn violated Indiana law by how her office handled absentee ballots in the May 2022 primary, as well as the existence of multiple keys to the ballot storage room.

“Our goal was to avoid a lawsuit, and we proposed a third party to review the process,” Commissioners President Carl Baxmeyer said. “The lawsuit that was filed last night really makes that moot.”

The contract retains law firm Taft, Stettinius & Hollister to monitor the lawsuit against the election board and intervene if necessary. The county will pay the firm a maximum rate of $450 an hour for the services.

Glenn is currently under investigation by the Indiana State Police, but the all-Republican commissioners also approved a resolution last week which gave Baxmeyer the power to hire a law firm to conduct a third-party investigation.

Democrats say that presents a conflict of interest, as Baxmeyer is on the ballot this fall, and that the commissioners have no authority to investigate elections. But Baxmeyer said their “hand was forced” by the lawsuit against the election board.

In a Tuesday statement, the St. Joseph Democratic Party said the whole situation is an “intentional attempt” at manufacturing a conspiracy “to smear the County Clerk’s office and cast doubt into the minds of voters” similar to Donald Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.