NAACP suit says Indiana’s voting law violates federal protections

The NAACP announced Thursday it has filed a second lawsuit against Indiana, challenging the state’s newly enacted voting law that allows for the removal of voters from the registration rolls without giving them notice or an opportunity to respond.

In the suit filed Aug. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Indiana are seeking to stop the state from canceling the registration of voters without following the procedures established in the National Voter Registration Act of 1933. The federal procedure includes providing written notice to the voter to confirm his or her address and giving ample time for the voter to reply before purging the registration rolls. 

The plaintiffs assert Senate Enrolled Act 442 discards the protections provided by federal law and enables the immediate removal of a voter based solely on the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck system, which leads to unreliable and discriminatory results.   

“No Hoosier should be silenced on Election Day,” said Barbara Bolling-Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. “Yet, under this new law, that will happen. It’s vital that Indiana follow federal law and ensure that voters are not wrongfully removed from the rolls.”

According to the lawsuit, Indiana has been sending its voter registration list to the Kansas Secretary of State, who would then compare it to the registration data from other states that were participating in the Kansas-administered Crosscheck system. Any Indiana voter who had the same first and last name and date of birth of another voter out-of-state would be flagged and county voter registration officials would then determine whether the voters in question were the same or different people.

However, the lawsuit contends, SEA 442 allows for a registration to be cancelled without the election official doing any kind of inquiry to confirm the information or even notifying the voter of he or she is being removed from the rolls.

The NAACP and the League of Women Voters say the Crosscheck system “provides inaccurate results, false positives and leads to the discriminatory disenfranchisement of many legally registered voters.” The plaintiffs pointed to one study that found that for every single voter identified as registered in two jurisdictions, the registrations of about 200 unique, legitimate voters would be eliminated.

“The disingenuous act of using the idea of voter fraud as a means to disenfranchise communities violates the core ideals of our democracy,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP. “The NAACP will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to suppress the vote of communities of color.”
The case is Indiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Connie Lawson, in her official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Indiana; J. Bradley King, in his officias capacity as Co-Director, Indiana Election Division; Angela M. Nussmeyer, in her official capacity as Co-Director, Indiana Election Division, 1:17-cv-02897.

Earlier in August, the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana, the General Assembly and various election officials, asserting Indiana SEA 220 violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The law requires Lake County to consolidate polling locations that had 600 or fewer active voters. The NAACP argues precincts with heavily black and Latino populations would be disproportionately affected by requiring these voters to put more time and effort in finding their new polling location and in traveling to the new venue. 

The NAACP and Common Cause also sued Marion County earlier this year, claiming its failure to offer more than one location for early voting is discriminatory and constitutes voter suppression.

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