Federal judge blocks Indiana officials from purging voter rolls without notice

Posted at 10:51 AM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 12:36:27-04

INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge has blocked an Indiana law that purges many people from the voter rolls after officials would fail to give proper notice.

A lawsuit, brought by Common Cause Indiana, claimed the state’s voter registration laws violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which aims to reduce barriers registering to vote, increase voter turnout and improve the accuracy of voter registration rolls. The lawsuit was filed against Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and two Indiana election officials.

Indiana’s law in question relied on a program that was supposed to compare people in other states, to find out if somebody moved away. If they did, the state would remove them from the voter roll.

Under the NVRA, a voter's registration may be removed from the rolls if the voter requests to be removed, if they die, because of a criminal conviction or mental incapacity or because of a change in residency. But the state can’t remove a person’s name if they moved unless they confirm in writing that they’ve moved, or if they don’t respond to notices and didn’t vote recently.

For this use, Indiana had used a program called Crosscheck but a 2018 ruling struck down the law because the data could be flawed. It often didn’t provide information when a person registered to vote in Indiana vs. when they registered to vote in a different state.

“Some county officials just assumed that the Indiana registration predated the other state's registration, which would lead to cancelling the Indiana registration,” wrote Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the opinion.

After the 2018 ruling, Indiana officials replaced the Crosscheck program, but they replaced it with an identical program called Indiana Data Enhancement Association.

Pratt issued a permanent injunction in the matter, blocking local officials from removing people from voter rolls without written confirmation from the voter, notice, or any waiting period. The Indiana Secretary of State's Office declined comment on the ruling.

“The Court agrees with Common Cause that the greater public interest is in allowing eligible voters to exercise their right to vote without being disenfranchised without notice,” Pratt wrote. “If a voter is disenfranchised and purged erroneously, that voter has no recourse after Election Day. While the Defendants have a strong public interest in protecting the integrity of voter registration rolls and the electoral process, they have other procedures in place that can protect that public interest that do not violate the NVRA.”