Election Law

7th Circuit blocks Indiana's second-try voter purge law; changes were 'largely cosmetic'

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A federal appeals court has blocked an Indiana law that allows county officials to kick some people off voter rolls without consent or notice.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago ruled Monday that the law known as Act 334 is inconsistent with safeguards mandated by the National Voter Registration Act, report Courthouse News Service, the Indiana Lawyer and a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The NVRA says states can’t remove a voter who has moved from the rolls unless the voter confirmed the change in writing or unless the voter failed to respond to a notice and did not vote in two federal election cycles.

The Indiana law allows county election officials to remove a voter who registers to vote in a second state, based on a presumption that the voter authorized cancellation of the Indiana registration. The presumption applies when Indiana’s election division forwards notice of the out-of-state registration. A copy of the voter’s signature is not required for cancellation.

The system was called the Indiana Data Enhancement Association, or IDEA.

The 7th Circuit said Act 334 made “largely cosmetic” changes to a prior law that was struck down by the appeals court. Just like the prior law, “Act 334 impermissibly allows Indiana to cancel a voter’s registration without either direct communication from the voter or compliance with the NVRA’s notice-and-waiting procedures,” the appeals court said.

The appeals court remanded for clarification on whether county officials could remove voters who sign a form explicitly authorizing cancellation of the Indiana registration. Nine states besides Indiana invite newly registered voters to expressly authorize cancellation of prior registrations, while 40 others don’t offer such an option.

Judge Diane Wood wrote the unanimous panel opinion in the case, League of Women Voters of Indiana Inc. v. Sullivan. The case was consolidated with a second lawsuit brought on behalf of Common Cause Indiana by the ACLU, the ACLU of Indiana, the voting rights group Demos and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

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