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Press release/statement

Voting Rights Advocates Ask Federal Court to Stop Indiana from Purging Voters

Indiana—On Thursday, Demos, the ACLU, the ACLU of Indiana and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, on behalf of Common Cause of Indiana, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of a new Indiana law that would allow the state to kick voters off the rolls based on flawed data, beginning on July 1. 

The groups argue that an Indiana law known as SB 442, which requires the state to participate in a program called Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck, violates the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA). The lawsuit asserts that the Crosscheck program is prone to error because it relies on incomplete voter information to target voters for removal. Under the program, states are given lists of voters whose names and birthdates match those of voters registered in other participating states. Indiana voters who appear on the Crosscheck list would be immediately purged from the voter rolls—with no notice and no opportunity to correct the record.

“The NVRA’s guarantee that voters cannot be purged without notice exists for a reason—to prevent voters from being disenfranchised based on bad information,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director at Common Cause Indiana. “Crosscheck’s shoddy data virtually guarantees that there will be errors, making that safeguard all the more important. Without it, eligible Indiana voters who took the time to register and have followed all the rules will be kicked off the rolls and denied their right to vote.”

Congress passed the NVRA in 1993 to increase voter participation in American elections. The law prohibits states from removing voters who appear to have changed residence unless the state first sends the person a written notification on which the person can confirm or correct the change. If the person does not respond, the state must wait until 2 federal election cycles have elapsed before it can remove the voter from the rolls. The Indiana statute provides none of these mandatory procedural protections.

“Indiana’s use of the Crosscheck program is a violation of the National Voting Rights Act and will lead to massive purges and disenfranchisement of eligible Indiana voters,” said Stuart Naifeh, Demos Senior Counsel. “It’s a form of outright vote denial. All too frequently in this country, such tactics have been used to exclude citizens, especially people of color, from the democratic system.”

The motion that was filed yesterday seeks to prevent Indiana from implementing the new law until the federal district court in Indianapolis rules on its legality. In a report accompanying the plaintiff’s filing, political science professor Michael McDonald explained that matching voters based only on name and birthdate is highly unreliable and likely to lead to legitimate voters being purged even though they have not moved.

“Indiana should not be permitted to ignore the procedural safeguards put in place to ensure voters are not erroneously removed from the rolls—especially with the midterm elections around the corner,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

This lawsuit was filed in October 2017. The Crosscheck program at the center of the case was designed by Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas and former Vice Chair of the “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” which was widely criticized and ultimately disbanded after it attempted to collect sensitive data on every registered voter in America. Several states that previously participated in Crosscheck have abandoned the program, including Florida, which cited the low quality of the data Crosscheck provides.