Judicial Watch, True the Vote Historic Indiana Lawsuit Forces Statewide Clean-Up of Voter Registration Lists, Permanent Changes in Election Law Procedures
AUGUST 07, 2014
Lawsuit ends after Secretary of State admits, “one in eight voter registrations contains inaccurate information,” begins massive voter registration clean-up process
(Washington, DC) – After two years of litigation, Judicial Watch and True the Vote announced today that on June 4, 2014, a District Court judge approved their Motion to Dismiss an election integrity lawsuit against the State of Indiana, signaling a major victory in their efforts to force the state to clean up its voter registration lists and overhaul its list-maintenance procedures.
The Judicial Watch/True the Vote motion came within days after Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson conceded that, “at least one in eight voter registrations contains inaccurate information.” On May 21, Lawson announced via a press release that her office would send out address confirmation postcards to 4.4 million registered Hoosier voters in order to “identify outdated and inaccurate voter registration information to improve the accuracy and integrity of Indiana’s voter registration list.” The mailing will cost an estimated $2.1 million and will be followed by a second mailing if necessary according to Lawson.
In their Motion to Dismiss, Judicial Watch and True the Vote applauded the state’s actions saying:
Plaintiffs were pleased to learn that Defendants’ most significant act of NVRA [National Voter Registration Act] Section 8 compliance in several years – the statewide address confirmation mailing to all voters – is now underway. In light of this, Plaintiffs now believe there are more productive uses of their time and Defendants’ time than continuing to litigate the Count I claim over Indiana’s Section 8 maintenance efforts.
In addition to the statewide clean-up of voter registration lists, Judicial Watch and True the Vote filed their historic June 2012 lawsuit, the Indiana legislature passed an election reform law incorporating a number of measures the suit had sought. The July 2013 measure included:
- A provision empowering the Indiana Secretary of State to break ties and decide matters whenever the Election Division Co-Directors “are unable to resolve a dispute between themselves regarding” the Indiana Election Division’s budget, expenditures, or contracts.
- A provision specifying that county officials could remove the names of deceased persons from the voter rolls “after receiving a copy of an obituary, notice of estate administration, or other notice of death” published in a newspaper.
- A provision requiring the Indiana Department of Health to obtain out-of-state citizen death information monthly from the State and Territorial Exchange of Vital Events (STEVE) System and the Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) System, both administered by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS).
- A provision requiring the state to obtain the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) on a monthly basis to remove voters who have died and to provide deceased registered voters to counties each month, tasks to be performed by the Secretary of State if the Co-Directors fail to do so.
- A provision requiring the state to provide counties with the names of voters who move each month so they can be removed from the rolls or updated as appropriate.
- A provision requiring the state to use the U.S. Post Office’s National Change of Address (NCOA) Service to identify registered voters who have moved, and to requiring the state to enter the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck (IVRC) Program to identify and remove registered voters who have moved from Indiana to other states.
The action by the legislature came on the heels of a precedent-setting December 2012 decision by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence finding that Judicial Watch and True the Vote members had standing to challenge Indiana’s alleged violations voter list maintenance requirements of the NVRA.
It was the first federal court decision granting citizens and non-government groups the ability to sue in federal court to enforce Section 8 of the NVRA. Robert D. Popper, Judicial Watch’s senior attorney who served as deputy chief of the voting section at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that during his tenure the George W. Bush administration in its final three years filed five lawsuits over improper maintenance of voter rolls. By comparison, Popper said, “there’s been not a single lawsuit” from the Obama administration.
Eventually Judge Lawrence ruled that the lawsuit had effectively been mooted out by Indiana’s election integrity reforms that came after the lawsuit’s filing. This decision, coupled with the Indiana Secretary of State’s voter registration list clean-up moves prompted Judicial Watch and True the Vote to dismiss their lawsuit, concluding the litigation.
“We are pleased that our lawsuit forced the State of Indiana to fix its broken system for protecting the integrity of the electoral process,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It took a federal lawsuit to spur the state legislature to reform Indiana’s electoral process and force Secretary of State Lawson to finally clean the badly outdated Indiana voter rolls. This is a major victory for Hoosier voters as well as voters nationwide. From the public interest perspective, it would have been counter-productive to continue to battle after Indiana gave us what we wanted. We will, nevertheless, remain vigilant in case Indiana officials again violate the law and put Indiana’s elections at risk. And it is shameful that President Obama’s politicized Justice Department won’t do its job and force states to clean up voting lists. Instead, Eric Holder and his allies are fanatically focused on attacking commonsense election integrity measures such as voter ID. What a disgrace it is that Judicial Watch and True the Vote is required to do basic law enforcement work to clean up elections that the Eric Holder’s Justice Department won’t do because of the administration’s misguided racial politics and radical ideology. The Obama Justice Department is a clear and present danger to the integrity of our nation’s elections.”
According to True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, “Despite the length of time this litigation took to come to an acceptable close, Indiana voters can now rest assured that common-sense voter roll maintenance procedures are in place and working in the interests of all. True the Vote hopes this episode serves as a strong example for the power that regular citizens have in demanding their rights as voters be protected.”
According to the Pew Report published in 2012: “[N]early 2 million dead people still registered to cast ballots, about 3 million eligible to vote in two or more states and millions more that are inaccurate, duplicate or out of date. The alarming figures were published this week in a report issued by the non-partisan Pew Center on States. It reveals that approximately 24 million active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or have significant inaccuracies. The problem, apparently, is an outdated registration system that can’t properly maintain records.”
Leading Judicial Watch’s and True the Vote’s representation in court were Judicial Watch attorneys Paul Orfanedes and Chris Fedeli, and Election Law Center attorney J. Christian Adams. David Langdon and Joshua Bolinger of Langdon Law, LLC served as local counsel.
Judicial Watch’s examination of data published in 2013 capturing 2012 voter rolls and population data showed that at least 11 states plus DC had substantially out of date voter rolls, with multiple counties where the number of registered voters exceeded the total voting age population.