Tippecanoe County, home of Purdue University, has violated state and federal voter registration laws, the Indiana Election Division said in a resolution passed late last week. It was a victory for the voting rights groups that filed suit in July.
The dispute revolved around the mass registration of voters, often conducted at universities, libraries, churches and other locations. Registration forms handed in, even if mailed in bulk, are exempt from residency tests under state and federal law.
But the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette and election watchdog Common Cause Indiana alleged that Tippecanoe treated personally delivered forms as mailed and required proof of residency. County election officials confirmed this policy in emails issued.
“In a state where voters already face too many roadblocks, it’s alarming to hear of administrative abuses at the local level that threaten to disenfranchise Hoosiers,” said Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana, in one press release on Thursday.
“We appreciate that the Indiana Election Division is conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and that the Indiana Election Commission is taking action to ensure our election laws are enforced consistently and fairly across the state,” continued Vaughn.
Indiana Election Division co-director Angela Nussmeyer, a Democrat, found seven voters who were each marked as “walking in” to turn in their forms, but whose forms were also marked as having arrived in the mail. All were likely mislabeled by the county’s identity verification system.
Most or all of the flags were removed in March 2022, though the order notes that it’s “unclear” whether county election officials removed them when voters presented proof of residency, or whether officials simply realized the flags were false were attached. Indiana Election Division co-director Brad King, a Republican, said in the order that he believes it is the latter.
Despite problems, no one was denied the right to vote
The order also found several inaccuracies throughout the county’s system.
The Indiana Election Division found that the county violated state voter registration statutes and the federal Help America Vote Act until at least March 2022.
However, there was no evidence that the county Elections Committee approved or ordered the actions leading to these violations, nor was there evidence that anyone was ultimately prevented from registering to vote or casting a regular vote .
“Furthermore, as of the date of this report and to the best of the department’s knowledge, the staff of the Board of Directors have cured these violations and no further violations have occurred,” the order added.
The Indiana Election Division recommended that the district elections committee update its training materials and guidelines and retrain all of its employees on proper data entry. This should happen “as soon as possible”.
“We are pleased with the actions taken by the Indiana Election Commission today to ensure voter registrations in Tippecanoe County are processed in accordance with state and federal laws,” said Ken Jones, chair of the league’s Voter Services Committee. “It is good to know that early last year the Elections and Registration Committee took steps to correct its actions.”
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