INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
A government watchdog group is suing Indiana Secretary of State Connie
Lawson, accusing her office of allowing voters to be illegally purged from
the state’s voting roles.
Indiana is asking a federal judge to put a stop to what it calls
“discriminatory and illegal” practices the Republican secretary of state’s
office adopted in the wake of new state law that went into effect in July.
Lawson’s general counsel has dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”
At issue is how the
election division in Lawson’s office allows local officials to remove voters
from their rolls if it is believed that they have moved to another state.
Common Cause says
the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows voters to be removed only
if they have confirmed in writing that they have moved, or if they fail to
respond to a written notice and do not cast a ballot for at least two
general election cycles. But Lawson’s office is allowing elections officials
to purge registered voters if they show up as recently registered in another
state in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.
Lawson’s office has
argued that if someone moves to a new state and registers to vote, their new
registration essentially serves as written notice that they are canceling
their registration in Indiana.
But Common Cause, a
left-leaning group, notes that the data the state is relying on comes
secondhand from a program that has been criticized for its inaccuracy. The
Crosscheck database, which roughly 30 states feed information into, is
maintained by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has burnished a
national reputation for pushing restrictive voting laws and is also the head
of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission.
Crosscheck Participation Guide admits that ‘a significant number of apparent
double votes are false positives and not double votes,’” the lawsuit, filed
Friday, states. “Several states already have ceased using Crosscheck, with
at least one publicly attributing the move to Crosscheck’s unreliability.”
“Hoosiers are at
risk of being disenfranchised unlawfully,” the suit says.
The program finds
duplicate registrations based on names and birthdates. But data experts are
skeptical of Crosscheck, which handled more than 98 million voter records
this year with roughly 3 million possible duplicates. A study this year by
researchers at Stanford, Harvard and Yale universities noted a high error
declined to comment Sunday. But in a written response to Common Cause,
Lawson’s general counsel, Jerold A. Bonnet, said Indiana practices are
“designed to only identify potential registration matches that are highly
likely to be one and the same individual - and to reject any potential match
in any instance where the available data is insufficient.”
rejected the suggestion that the secretary of state’s office is using the
process “for partisan effect” or as a “weapon of voter suppression.”
This isn’t the
first time Lawson has drawn scrutiny over her handling of the state’s voter
rolls. The Indiana NAACP and the League of Women Voters filed a similar
lawsuit over the summer.
In the run up to
the 2016 presidential election, Lawson raised concern about possible vote
fraud by publicly stating that thousands of voter registrations had been
She later walked
back the comments, acknowledging that many of the altered registration
records might just have been residents rushing to correct their names or
birth dates ahead of the election.