Nearly half a million individuals have been deleted from Indiana’s list of registered voters since the Nov. 8, 2016, general election. Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson said Tuesday that the removals are part of an ongoing effort to clean up the state’s voter records after she determined her predecessors largely ignored the time-consuming task. “I discovered voter list maintenance was not being done statewide and many outdated voter registrations were still on the rolls,” Lawson said. “I made it a priority to ensure our state’s list was accurate and that we followed the federal law.” Across Indiana, 481,235 registered voters were purged, or about 10 percent of the state’s total.
Articles about voting issues in Indiana.
While it’s a non-election year in Indiana, counties across the state have taken action to clean up voter registration lists. The Indiana Election Commission set a deadline of March 10 to remove inactive voters, who have not voted since 2014. Vigo County purged inactive voters on March 7. The county cut its voter registration list 10.5 percent — 7,960 voters — resulting in the county’s voter registration dipping to 71,558 from 79,518. “We knew we had a lot of voters who no longer live here,” said Robert Lawson Jr., co-director of the Vigo County Voter Registration department.
Reforming Indiana’s redistricting process is not likely to change this legislative session, despite four bipartisan bills addressing the issue. One of those bills, SB136 was written by Sen. John Ruckelshaus (R- Indianapolis). Ruckelshaus thinks more public interest and bi-partisan efforts are required in reforming the redistricting process. “I just strongly believe in bipartisanship, and I think that when you have districts that are more competitive in that regard it just produces a better product,” he says.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles would be required to offer Hoosiers the chance to register to vote more often under legislation approved by a Senate committee. But the bill does dramatically less than its original version. Under current law, the BMV is required to offer voter registration to anyone seeking a driver’s license, permit or ID card. Rep. Clyde Kersey’s (D-Terre Haute) bill would require the BMV to offer voter registration during all other customer interactions. But Kersey’s original proposal would have implemented automatic voter registration at the BMV. That language was stripped out in the House Elections Committee. Chair Milo Smith (R-Columbus) says there were issues with the idea, including that, in any given trip to the BMV, people might not have all the documents needed to register.
Terre Haute legislator Clyde Kersey’s bill to establish automatic voter registration in Indiana through Bureau of Motor Vehicles will get a hearing today in the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee. But the proposal’s “automatic” element will likely be diminished. Instead of applicants for BMV licenses and identification cards being automatically registered as voters, simultaneously, BMV employees would be required to ask customers if they want to become registered to vote. “So it’s an improvement, but a small improvement,” said Kersey. He’s a Democrat, whose party is vastly outnumbered by the Republican super majority in the House.
A bill before the Indiana General Assembly aims to push Lake County to consolidate its small voting precincts. Rep. Harold Slager, R-Schererville, filed a bill to establish a commission to develop a plan to consolidate Lake County voting precincts with less than 600 active voters. Proponents say the legislation will create savings for the county, while detractors decry consolidation efforts as making it difficult for residents to vote. As more people go to early voting locations, Dan Dernulc, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, said the county will have to look at consolidation. Combining the smaller precincts would give voters the same if not better level of service, Dernulc said, and save money for taxpayers. “It’s a money-saving idea,” Dernulc said.
Employees of an Indiana voter mobilization group with deep ties to the Democratic Party submitted several hundred voter registrations that included false, incomplete or fraudulent information, according to a search warrant unsealed Monday. The contents of the warrant, which allowed Indiana State Police to raid the offices of Patriot Majority USA in October, were revealed at the request of the group, which is at the center of an ongoing voter fraud investigation. It indicates state police contacted a handful of workers who admitted to falsifying registrations. Several said they were under pressure and faced the possibility of losing their temporary job if they did not register at least 10 new voters a day. Indiana law requires voter registration groups to submit all registrations they collect, even if they know they contain inaccurate information. Patriot Majority, which registered thousands of predominantly black voters before last week’s election, flagged many of the registrations that they believed contained incorrect or incomplete information to elections officials, the warrant states.
A Marion County judge wants to know how a sealed search warrant affidavit for an alleged voter fraud investigation was leaked. Defense attorneys for a voter registration group, Patriot Majority USA, requested and were granted an emergency hearing Monday evening with a prosecutor and a Marion County judge after details of the document were published by another news outlet. I-Team 8 was present in the clerk’s office Monday evening but were kept out of the meeting held in the judge’s chambers. At issue is a search warrant affidavit that the judge told I-Team 8 remains under seal. Linda Pence, attorney for the voter registration group founded by a Democratic strategist, said that the Patriot Majority USA’s local outlet – the Indiana Voter Registration Project – was a “respectable organization” that helped register 45,000 voters in Indiana.
A voter mobilization facing an investigation into possible voter registration fraud asked a court Thursday to unseal documents from an Indiana State Police search of its offices, saying it “has been publicly demonized by the highest state officials in Indiana.” Patriot Majority USA’s attorneys asked a judge to either unseal a search warrant affidavit in the Oct. 4 search of its Indianapolis offices or hold an immediate hearing on its request. State Police announced Sept. 15 that it had begun investigating in August whether some voter registration applications submitted by Patriot Majority contained elements of fraud, including possible forged signatures. Patriot Majority has said some applications it submitted to county clerk’s offices were missing information, but none were fraudulent, and the group had flagged applications it knew were incomplete. In its motion filed in Marion County Superior Court, Patriot Majority cites comments by Gov. Mike Pence, who’s Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate; Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson; Pence-appointed State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, among others. “It would be highly unjust to not release the Affidavit when public officials have refused to provide the facts supporting their reckless conclusory proclamations,” the motion states.
Ever since Indiana State Police raided a voter registration office in Indiana and effectively shut down a voter registration drive aimed at getting African-American voters to the polls, there have been a lot of unanswered questions. Among the biggest: What actually initiated the state police investigation? What was the motivation? What happens to the thousands of legitimate registration forms submitted through the voter registration drive under investigation? Here’s what we know. On Oct. 4, the Indiana State Police executed a search warrant and raided the Indiana Voter Registration Project’s office. They took phones, paperwork and computers as evidence in their investigation into alleged voter fraud. The raid and subsequent statements about the case by the state police have received a lot of media coverage in Indiana, and nationally. “State Police raid Indy office in growing voter fraud case” read the headline in the state’s largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star. Another one from the Star: “Top Indiana election official alleges more voter fraud.” The case has also been followed by the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times and The New Republic.