A lawsuit is seeking to block an aggressive new effort by the state of Indiana to purge voters from its rolls. If it succeeds, it would deter other states from following suit. But if it fails, these states could be emboldened to begin purging more voters—and particularly minority voters. Indiana is one of 30 states that participate in Crosscheck, a program administered by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. A Republican known for pursuing policies that make it harder to register to vote and cast a ballot, Kobach is the vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial election fraud commission, and he seems eager to nationalize his controversial priorities such as Crosscheck. The program compares registration lists for participating states and alerts states if registrations in two states appear to match, suggesting that someone might have moved and neglected to cancel his or her earlier voter registration. Because it compares only first names, last names, and birthdates, it generates a high rate of false positives—one study found that its error rate is more than 99 percent—and has prompted some states, including Florida, to withdraw from the program.
Indiana’s secretary of state, Connie Lawson, also sits on the president’s election commission, which is headed by the former governor of her state, Vice President Mike Pence. Lawson, a Republican, has acknowledged that Crosscheck is unreliable and generates false matches. But this summer, Indiana changed its laws to allow local officials to immediately remove people flagged by Crosscheck if the officials believe the match is accurate. This new policy, the progressive group Common Cause Indiana argues in its lawsuit, ignores federal requirements for how and when to remove voters.
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) allows just two ways for election officials to take someone off the rolls for a change in residence. Officials can do so if they receive written notification from a voter that he or she has moved. Or, if they suspect a voter has moved outside the county, they can send him or her a notice asking them to confirm their address, then wait two congressional election cycles, after which time the voter can be removed if he or she has not responded and has not cast a ballot in that time. The lawsuit, which will be argued by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the voting rights group Demos, claims that the state’s new removal process forgoes these federally mandated steps.