A federal appeals court ruling last week upheld the block on a controversial Indiana voter purge law.
The ruling does something else: It protects the integrity of the voting process for all Hoosiers.
Senate Bill 442, a measure signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2017, would have allowed election officials to immediately remove voters from the rolls if they were flagged by the “Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck,” a controversial tracking system.
Last year, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis temporarily blocked the law from taking effect while a lawsuit filed by watchdog group Common Cause moved forward. The lawsuit accuses Indiana of violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 by passing a law that revamps the way the state updates voter registration lists.
On Tuesday, the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Pratt’s ruling.
“Act 442 does away with the process of personal contact with the suspected ineligible voter and allows Indiana election officials to remove a person from the rolls based on Crosscheck without direct notification of any kind,” U.S. District Judge Diane Wood said in a 35-page ruling. “On its face, this appears to be inconsistent with the NVRA’s prohibition on removing voters without either hearing from them directly or going through the notice process.”
State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, one of the authors of SB 442, told the Indianapolis Star in 2017 that the merits of the law were debated by the Senate Committee on Elections as well as the entire General Assembly. He said he felt certain the law was “a reasonable and effective way to keep accurate voter roll information.”
But consider Virginia’s experience with Crosscheck: The state used the system to purge almost 40,000 registered voters without notice prior to its 2013 election. Local election officials later found error rates that were as high as 17%, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy institute. Officials with the center said that a 2016 analysis found that minorities are more likely to be flagged for removal by the Crosscheck process.
Tuesday’s ruling noted that the voter registration process is one measure to protect the integrity of the voting process. “A name on a voter roll in Indiana is there only because a voter took the trouble to put it there,” the court said. “Laws such as the NVRA ensure that the states do not undo that work without good reason.”
We’re glad the appeals court upheld the block on Indiana’s wrongheaded voter purge law — with good reason.