Indiana has purged nearly a half-million registered voters from its rolls since Election Day.
The purge is part of a massive effort to update the state’s voter rolls after years of improper maintenance and neglect, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said. Since the November elections, 481,235 registered voters have been taken off the list.
Lawson is undoubtedly correct that Indiana’s voter rolls were out of date, a situation not unique to Indiana. Giving states the responsibility of maintaining their own voter rolls is one of the many idiosyncrasies of America’s election “systems,” and it doesn’t work very well. (I put systems in quotes, because the way in which we conduct elections is anything but systematic. Or uniform.)
Other countries–not that we would ever admit that other nations may have things to teach us–have established national, nonpartisan agencies to administer elections. The virtues of such an approach are rather obvious, especially in a country where voters freely move from state to state. A national system makes record keeping uniform, ensures that polling places adhere to the same rules and stay open during the same hours (Indiana’s polls close at 6:00 pm, while citizens in most other states are still casting ballots at 8:00), and it minimizes the opportunity for local partisan mischief.
Perhaps political hostility to that last “virtue” is why we still have local control…
Secretary of State Lawson initiated her purge by sending postcards to every registered voter in Indiana. If postcards were returned as undeliverable, Lawson’s office would send a second, forwardable postcard.
People who failed to update their voter records after receiving the second card were marked as inactive on the state’s list of registered voters. And those who didn’t cast ballots in 2014, 2015 or 2016 were purged from the rolls after the November election.
That sounds simple enough, but of course, nothing in American democracy is simple. As Huffpost reported a month or so ago,
In April, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed legislation authorizing election officials to remove voters from the rolls if they were found to be registered in more than one place. According to the legislation, one of the ways officials can identify people who are registered in more than one place is by using Interstate Crosscheck, a system developed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) that 27 states use to compare voter information.
It isn’t illegal to be registered in more than one state. But if Crosscheck flags a voter as being registered in another state, the Indiana legislation authorizes local election officials to remove them from the rolls if they can verify that person is indeed registered in their jurisdiction.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Brennan Center for Justice on behalf of the Indiana chapters of the NAACP and League of Women Voters accuses that process of violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. The federal law requires election officials to provide notice to a voter they are at risk of being removed and then permits the officials to remove them from the voting rolls if they don’t respond over a period of time. In their complaint, lawyers called the Indiana law a “flagrant” violation of NVRA.
Research has shown that purging based on Crosscheck causes the cancellation of 200 legitimate registrations for every registration that could be used to cast a double vote. Researchers at MIT have found a 13.6 percent chance that any random voter could be matched to another voter with the same name and birth month and year.
Florida and Oregon have both discontinued use of the program, citing its unreliability. (Florida evidently did so after the program purged Governor Rick Scott. Schadenfreude, anyone?)
If you are an Indiana voter, and you want to be sure you are still eligible to vote, use this link.