With accusations of rigging and voter fraud hanging over this year’s elections, alarms are set off by the mere suggestion of irregularities in the registration and voting process. So when questions were raised in Indiana this year about suspicious registration forms, the matter quickly snowballed, leading to a sweeping investigation, supported by the Republican secretary of state and led by the State Police. The contention was that some voter registration forms submitted by the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which set out this year to sign up thousands of African-Americans to vote in the state, were missing key information or appeared fraudulent. The State Police descended on the group’s headquarters this month, and conservatives have pointed to the case as a possible example of ineligible voters being recruited to sway elections. The Indiana Voter Registration Project insists there was no wrongdoing, pointed out that the state’s governor, Mike Pence, is the Republican vice-presidential candidate and asserted that the investigation was politically motivated. They invited federal authorities to come in and look for themselves. The state investigation is ongoing, with no resolution assured before the Nov. 8 election, when Indiana voters will select a new governor and United States senator; and help choose a new president.
This is how the controversy unfolded:
Debbie Hoskins, the elected clerk of Hendricks County, said she noticed problems several weeks ago with roughly 10 voter registration forms submitted by the Indiana Voter Registration Project. Some of the forms were missing information, said Ms. Hoskins, a Republican. In other instances, the signatures on the forms did not seem to match those already in a state database. Ms. Hoskins said her office contacted one registered voter and asked about a form purporting to update some registration information. The voter claimed to have filled out no such form. “Things didn’t feel right,” said Ms. Hoskins, whose concerns were to the State Police. “Things didn’t look right.”
The Indiana State Police served a search warrant on Oct. 4 at the Indiana Voter Registration Project office in Indianapolis, in response to a tip in August about voter registration forms being submitted with “missing, incomplete and incorrect information.” At first the inquiry focused on just two counties, including Hendricks, but within a few days it had expanded to 56 of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Capt. David Bursten, a State Police spokesman, declined to say how many voter registration forms had been called into question. He said the investigation remained active and that no one had yet been arrested. This week Connie Lawson, Indiana’s secretary of state, said that “thousands of dates of births and first names were changed” in the voter registration system and that “this may be a case of voter fraud.”