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Civic Groups Sue Indiana Secretary of State, Say Release of Personal Voter Data Is Illegal Under State Law

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she will give some voter information to the Commission on “Election Integrity,” but Indiana civic groups and others argue in a lawsuit submitted to Lake County court that doing so violates state law.

July 12, 2017

Top Elec­tion Offi­cial Is Member of Trump’s Dubi­ous Fraud Commis­sion

Indi­ana­polis – Indi­ana Secret­ary of State Connie Lawson said she will give some voter inform­a­tion to the Pres­id­en­tial Advis­ory Commis­sion on Elec­tion Integ­rity as reques­ted, but Indi­ana civic groups and others argue in a lawsuit submit­ted to Lake County court today that doing so viol­ates state law. Lawson is a member of the contro­ver­sial Commis­sion, which is chaired by Vice Pres­id­ent Mike Pence, the former governor of Indi­ana.
 
“There’s no ques­tion that this commis­sion is laying the ground­work for poten­tial voter suppres­sion,” said Patsy Hoyer and Oscar Ander­son, Co-Pres­id­ents of the League of Women Voters of Indi­ana. “The request for data came from someone who has a history of advoc­at­ing for voter suppres­sion laws, and state offi­cials should be using every tool at their disposal, includ­ing state law, to protect their sens­it­ive inform­a­tion.”
 
“The NAACP has fought for fair voting rights since it was foun­ded,” said Barbara Bolling-Willi­ams of the Indi­ana State Confer­ence of the NAACP. “This Commis­sion is full of people who want to suppress the vote. Not on our watch.”
 
“The Commis­sion cannot bypass state rules designed to protect sens­it­ive voter inform­a­tion,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy Program. “Lawson might be a member of this panel, but her first duty is to the Hoosiers who trus­ted her with personal inform­a­tion so that they could parti­cip­ate in fair and free elec­tions in the state. She must proceed care­fully and with legally mandated proced­ures before shar­ing voter data.”
 
Late last month, Kansas Secret­ary of State Kris Kobach, the Commis­sion’s vice chair with a long-time history of support­ing voter suppres­sion efforts, reques­ted names, address, birth­d­ates, the last four digits of a voter’s social secur­ity number if avail­able, voter history, milit­ary status, and felony convic­tion history from states across the coun­try. Reac­tions to Kobach’s request have so far included three federal lawsuits filed in Wash­ing­ton D.C., one federal lawsuit filed in Miami; and a lawsuit filed in state court in New Hamp­shire. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have declined to provide any data, and others — like Lawson — have said they will provide publicly avail­able data. 
 
Indi­ana law only allows certain parties access to compu­ter­ized voter regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion for certain purposes, and the Commis­sion’s invest­ig­a­tion and public disclos­ure of data does not qual­ify. To legally obtain a limited amount of data from voter rolls, the panel must enter into a writ­ten agree­ment with the Secret­ary of State’s Elec­tion Divi­sion that prevents it from using the inform­a­tion in certain ways. Lawson made no mention of such an agree­ment in her response to the Commis­sion’s request.
 
The organ­iz­a­tional plaintiffs in the suit —The League of Women Voters of Indi­ana and the Indi­ana NAACP — are repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Kirk­land and Ellis LLP, and Trent A. McCain of McCain Law Offices, P.C.
 
Lean more about the “Elec­tion Integ­rity” Commis­sion on the Bren­nan Center’s resource page here. And, read more about other poten­tial legal pitfalls in a recent Bren­nan Center memo.
 

For more inform­a­tion or to sched­ule an inter­view, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646–292–8316.

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