Lawsuit: Indiana’s Method of Purging Voters Violates Federal Law

August 23, 2017

Advocacy Groups Take Secretary of State to Court Over Recently-Enacted Legislation

INDIANAPOLIS – A new law in Indiana illegally removes people from voter registration rolls, the Indiana NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Indiana said in a lawsuit filed today against Secretary of State Connie Lawson. The groups are being represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, and Trent A. McCain of McCain Law Offices, P.C.

The law, passed during the last legislative session and enacted in July, violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), established to protect voters from being removed from registration rolls improperly. Known as “motor-voter,” the NVRA sets clear procedures officials must follow before deleting a voter believed to have moved from one jurisdiction to another from the rolls.  
 
The Hoosier State’s new law ignores the NVRA’s important protections by allowing election officials to immediately remove voters identified by the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck system as having registered in another state. This process — which can find a match based on first name, last name, and date of birth alone — has resulted in wrongful removals when used elsewhere. The lawsuit, which seeks an injunction against removing voters without federally mandated protections, notes that in Virginia, Crosscheck had error rates as high as 17 percent. 
 
“No Hoosier should be silenced on Election Day,” said Barbara Bolling-Williams, President of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. “Yet, under this new law, that will happen. It’s vital that Indiana follow federal law and ensure that voters are not wrongfully removed from the rolls.”

“The League of Women Voters of Indiana’s positions support responsible voter list maintenance,” said Patsy Hoyer and Oscar Anderson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. “But that is not what this is.” 

“The motor-voter law exists to prevent widespread and haphazard removal of voters,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Indiana must reinstate voter protections and make sure that everyone eligible to vote can have their voice heard at the polls.”

“Our state must take steps to correct this clear violation of federal law,” said Trent A. McCain, of McCain Law Offices, P.C. “The motor-voter law’s safeguards are necessary to protect the sacred right to vote for all Hoosiers.”

In May, the Brennan Center sent a letter to Secretary of State Lawson, formally notifying her of the state’s obligations under the NVRA and identifying legal issues with the soon-to-be enacted law. The Brennan Center offered to work with Lawson and her team to create responsible voter list maintenance practices. No corrective steps were taken, leading to today’s lawsuit.  

For more information, visit the Brennan Center’s website.

To connect with a Brennan Center expert for an interview, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.

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