Appeals Court Upholds Freeze on Indiana Law that Would Cancel Voter Registrations Without Telling Voters

August 27, 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Derek Rosenfeld, derek.rosenfeld@nyu.edu, 646-292-8381

A federal appeals court in Chicago today upheld a trial court ruling temporarily preventing the state of Indiana from implementing a 2017 law that could recklessly knock eligible voters off registration lists. The 2017 law directs election officials to cancel the registrations of voters identified by the flawed Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck system as having registered in another state – without providing notice and a waiting period, as mandated by federal law. 

On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Indiana and the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, Brennan Center lawyers, with co-counsel from Quinn Emanuel and the McCain Law Offices, sued Indiana’s elections officials because Indiana’s new purge law violates the National Voter Registration Act, or NVRA. The NVRA sets clear procedures that officials must follow before removing a voter from the rolls who is believed to have moved. Last year, a trial court preliminarily halted implementation of Indiana’s purge law while the case is being considered. Today’s appellate ruling upheld that decision.

“The NVRA imposes a duty of notice and a waiting period to ensure that eligible voters are not improperly removed from the rolls,” said Myrna PĂ©rez, Director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights & Elections Program. “The state of Indiana cannot ignore those indisputable requirements of federal law.”

“The Seventh Circuit is rightfully worried that Indiana sought to rely exclusively on Crosscheck data to silence Hoosiers on Election Day,” said Barbara Bolling-Williams, President of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. “It is vital that Indiana follow federal law and ensure that voters are not wrongfully removed from the rolls.”

“The League of Women Voters of Indiana supports responsible voter list maintenance,” said Patsy Hoyer and Oscar Anderson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. “As today’s decision suggests, Indiana’s Crosscheck purge law does not accomplish that goal.”   

The Crosscheck program—which compares voter registration data across participating states and can find a match based on first name, last name, and date of birth alone—has resulted in wrongful removals when used elsewhere. The use of Crosscheck was expanded under former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who served as vice chairman of President Trump’s controversial and now dissolved voter fraud commission. But Crosscheck is so unreliable that eleven states have left the program in recent years. 

Indiana’s 2017 purge law comes as part of a wave of similar laws nationwide that the Brennan Center has worked to stop. Last summer, the Brennan Center released Purges: A Growing Threat to the Right to Vote, a report examining the growing threat of states using bad practices to clean up their voter registration lists and outlining the steps each state can take to protect voters. 

Read more about the case, Indiana NAACP and League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Lawson.