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

July 11, 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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