Seventh Circuit Blocks Indiana “Crosscheck” Voter List Maintenance Law

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The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling blocking the State of Indiana from using “Crosscheck” data to remove voters with registrations in another state from the rolls. Courthouse News Service has more:

The Seventh Circuit Tuesday upheld an order blocking Indiana from removing voters from electoral rolls by using a controversial interstate “Crosscheck” program…

“Registering to vote in another state is not the same as a request for removal from Indiana’s voting rolls,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood said in a 35-page ruling Tuesday. “Indiana equates double registration with double voting. But the two are quite different.”

The state had argued that the program would have cut down on potential problems associated with double registration – but plaintiffs claimed the plan would improperly remove voters without notice:

State officials say the purge is necessary to ensure that ineligible voters do not remain on the rolls after moving away from the Hoosier State.

The 2017 complaint rebuked the state’s use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck database to compare its voter registration records with other states’ information. 

Advocates for the program, commonly referred to as Crosscheck, say it uncovers evidence of voter fraud or so-called “double voting,” where people register and vote in two states. But election experts say the program is unreliable.

The lawsuit accuses Indiana of violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 by passing a law that revamps the way the state updates voter registration lists. The 2017 law – Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 442 – allowed officials to immediately remove voters based solely on data from the Crosscheck program.

Formerly, removal of a voter required written confirmation of a resident’s move out of state and evidence of inactivity during two general election cycles.

The appeals court’s ruling leaned heavily on the lack of contact with affected voters in making its ruling:

A federal district court judge granted a preliminary injunction against the new Indiana law, which a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit affirmed Tuesday.

“The NVRA is designed to ensure that the competing interest in preventing abuse does not wind up disenfranchising American voters,” Wood, a Clinton appointee, said in the ruling. “On the preliminary injunction record before us, we are satisfied that the plaintiff Organizations have standing to sue, and that they put enough in the record to show a likelihood of success on the merits.”

Judges Michael Brennan and Amy St. Eve, both Trump appointees, also served on the panel.

“Act 442 does away with the process of personal contact with the suspected ineligible voter and allows Indiana election officials to remove a person from the rolls based on Crosscheck without direct notification of any kind,” Wood said in the ruling. “On its face, this appears to be inconsistent with the NVRA’s prohibition on removing voters without either hearing from them directly or going through the notice process.”

The court also noted that dual registrations can occur for valid reasons without necessarily indicating double voting:

The opinion notes that there might be many circumstances in which a person might register to vote in a new location but then return to their former residence – perhaps because they fail a probationary job period, drop out of college, or a return to take care of a sick family member. 

Whatever the reason, Wood said: “They will vote in only one place, even if they have open registrations in two. The only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.”

This ruling could well be one of the last gasps for Crosscheck, which was initially popular in many states but quickly became mired in questions about the quality of its matches. Many states (not yet including Indiana) have joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) interstate data exchange, which performs a similar match but which also uses a more reliable process and thus has yet to encounter the same resistance as Crosscheck. Either way, the Seventh Circuit’s ruling confirms (for now) that voters with questioned registrations, whatever the source, need an opportunity to explain themselves. Stay tuned …

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