INDIANAPOLIS — This afternoon, the Indiana Election Commission (IEC), unanimously and in a bipartisan vote, adopted an order supporting claims by voter advocates that the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections and Registration (TBER) was improperly processing voter registration forms in violation of state and federal law.
In July 2022, Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette (LWVGL) filed a complaint with the co-directors of the Indiana Election Division (IED) to notify them of violations of voter registration laws by TBER. The complaint asked that the violations be addressed through the adoption of an order by the bipartisan Indiana Election Commission requiring the Board to comply with voter registration laws.
An investigation by the IED supported the complaint filed by the voter advocacy organizations. IED Co-Director Nussmeyer documented seven instances where the county violated the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by requiring first-time registrants whose applications were hand-delivered to provide additional proof of residency documentation before the applications would be finalized. This is a clear violation of both state and federal law, which generally requires additional documentation only when a voter registration application is delivered through the mail. CCIN and LWVGL expressed concern about potential disenfranchisement given that young first-time voters, including young people of color, are less likely to have this additional documentation that is not required by law.
The IED investigation concluded that the Board staff corrected those violations in March of 2022, although it is not clear what motivated their decision to correct the violations while maintaining publicly that they were complying with all voter registration laws. During the investigation, IED staff asked county officials who made the decision to correct the records and why it was done but those questions were left unanswered.
In their order, the IEC directs the Board to update their training materials to ensure that their staff legally processes hand-delivered voter registration forms and to retrain staff on how to correctly enter new voters into the statewide voter registration system.
“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,” Ken Jones, Chair of the LWVGL Voter Services Committee said. “It is good to know that the Board of Elections and Registration took steps to correct their actions earlier last year.”
Julia Vaughn, Common Cause Indiana Executive Director said, “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. 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.”
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and attorney William R. Groth of Vlink Law Firm, LLC provided legal assistance on this matter.
The IEC’s determinations can be found here.