A voting rights group claims Indiana unlawfully purges voters from the rolls by using a controversial anti-voter fraud program some say targets minority voters and violates federal law by not confirming residents moved out of state before they are removed.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing Common Cause Indiana in its fight to prevent state officials from removing voters from registration rolls. Officials say the purge is necessary to ensure that ineligible voters do not remain on the rolls after moving away from the Hoosier State.
ACLU staff attorney Jan Mensz filed the lawsuit Friday in Indianapolis federal court on behalf of the group, which strongly criticizes the state’s use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program to compare voter registration information.
Advocates for the program, called Crosscheck for short, say it uncovers evidence of voter fraud or so-called “double voting,” where people register and vote in two states. But election experts say the program is unreliable.
Common Cause Indiana, made up of 12,000 Indiana voters and citizens, says in its 18-page federal complaint that Indiana is violating the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 through the enactment of a new amendment to Indiana law.
The amendment allows official to ignore a waiting period that required written confirmation of a resident’s move out of state and inactivity over two general election cycles.
Before the amendment of the Indiana Elections Code on July 1, officials were barred from removing voters unless voters had failed to respond to an address change notice and failed to vote in the last two general elections.
Now, under Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 442, or SEA 442, officials may remove voters immediately, relying solely on data from the Crosscheck program, according to the complaint.
“The counties are no longer required to send the requisite written confirmation or wait for two general elections in which the voter is inactive before removing the voter from the rolls,” the lawsuit states.
Common Cause Indiana argues that the Crosscheck data Indiana relies upon is flawed.
Administered by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is also vice chair of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity, the Crosscheck program compares voter registration information from 30 member states to determine which voters have moved and registered at their new residence.
But election experts have criticized Crosscheck for producing large numbers of matches because the program only cross-checks first names, last names, and dates of birth.
Citing a statistical study titled “Seeing Double Voting: An Extension of the Birthday Problem” Common Cause Indiana says the researchers found that 487 of 884 “double voters” in New Jersey “matched using solely first name, last name, and date of birth as the matching criteria were most likely different individuals.”
“Another study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and Microsoft found that Crosscheck’s standard procedure would eliminate the registrations of about 200 unique, legitimate voters for every one registration that could be used to cast a double vote,” the complaint states.
According to the voting rights group, first-name naming conventions are common among minority voters and Crosscheck is more likely to find matches in Hispanic and black communities.
“Indeed, existing studies show that incorrect matches using such a methodology are disproportionately concentrated among minority voters. Crosscheck flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian-Americans, and one in nine African-Americans as potential double registrants,” according to the lawsuit.
Common Cause Indiana says that the unreliability of Crosscheck data means that state officials are removing voters from the rolls in an unreasonable and discriminatory manner.
“As a result, numerous Hoosiers are at risk of being disenfranchised unlawfully,” the complaint states.
The group names Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Indiana Election Division officials J. Bradley King and Angela Nussmeyer as defendants.
It wants a preliminary and permanent injunction that bars the state from removing voter registration records, makes it comply with the NVRA, and directs state official to restore voters who were purged after July 1.
Lawson’s spokeswoman Valerie Warycha said she could not comment on pending litigation.
The issue of voter fraud became a hot-button issue after last year’s general election. President Trump created a voter fraud commission in May claiming, without evidence, that millions of illegal votes had been cast after Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
Voting rights advocate says there is little evidence of widespread voter fraud. They contend that the commission and other methods, including voter ID laws, are used to suppress the rights of minorities who overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party.
Top photo | Voters use electronic voting machines at the Schiller Recreation Center polling station on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP/John Minchillo)