IN Brief

County violated voter registration laws, Indiana election leaders rule

By: - January 9, 2023 7:00 am
voter registration

The Indiana Election Division determined that, at least until March 2022, Tippecanoe County was violating state voter registration law and the federal Help America Vote Act. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Tippecanoe County, home to Purdue University, violated state and federal voter registration laws, the Indiana Election Division said in an order adopted late last week. It was a victory for the voting rights groups that filed a complaint in July.

The dispute hinged on the mass voter registration drives often conducted at universities, libraries, churches, and other venues. Hand-delivered registration forms — even when delivered in bulk — are exempt from residency checks under state and federal law.

But the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette and elections watchdog Common Cause Indiana alleged that Tippecanoe was treating hand-delivered forms as mailed-in ones, and requiring proof of residency. County election officials confirmed that policy in exhibited emails.

“In a state where voters already face too many obstacles, it’s alarming to hear of administrative violations at the local level that threaten to disenfranchise Hoosiers,” Common Cause Indiana Executive Director Julia Vaughn said in a news release Thursday.

“We appreciate the Indiana Election Division conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and the Indiana Election Commission taking action to ensure our voting laws are consistently and fairly applied across the state,” Vaughn continued.

Indiana Election Division Co-Director Angela Nussmeyer, a Democrat, found seven voters who’d each been marked a “walk-in” to deliver their forms, but whose forms were also marked as being received by mail. All were likely mis-flagged by the county’s system for identification verification.

Most or all of the flags were removed in March 2022, though the order notes it’s “unclear” if county election officials removed them when the voters provided residency proof or if officials simply realized the flags were wrongly applied. Indiana Election Division Co-Director Brad King, a Republican, said in the order that he believed it was the latter.

No one denied right to vote despite problems

The order also noted multiple inaccuracies throughout the county’s system.

The Indiana Election Division determined that, at least until March 2022, the county was violating state voter registration law and the federal Help America Vote Act.

But it said there wasn’t evidence that the county’s election board authorized or directed the actions that led to those violations, nor was there evidence that anyone was ultimately prevented from registering to vote or from casting a regular ballot.

“Further, as of the date of this report and to the best of the Division’s knowledge, the Board’s staff has cured these violations and no further violations have occurred,” the order added.

The Indiana Election Division recommended that county election board update its training materials and guidance, and retrain all of its employees on proper data entry. That should happen “as soon as practicable.”

“We are pleased with the actions taken by the Indiana Election Commission today to ensure that voter registrations in Tippecanoe County be processed as prescribed in state and federal law,” said Ken Jones, Chair of the League’s Voter Services Committee. “It is good to know that the Board of Elections and Registration took steps to correct their actions earlier last year.”

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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie joins the Indiana Capital Chronicle after covering city government and urban affairs for the Indianapolis Business Journal for more than a year. She graduated from Northwestern University in March 2021, and has reported for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and student publications in Evanston, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar.

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