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Judge blocks Indiana law that would let officials kick voters off the rolls

The measure was paired with an error-riddled voter tracking system imported from Kansas

Voters fill out their ballots in the patriotic voting booths at Merrill Auditorium with a hour and 20 minutes to go before the polls close. CREDIT: Brianna Soukup/ Getty Images
Voters fill out their ballots in the patriotic voting booths at Merrill Auditorium with a hour and 20 minutes to go before the polls close. CREDIT: Brianna Soukup/ Getty Images

Kris Kobach’s effort to upend the way Americans vote has suffered another setback.

The Kansas Secretary of State has been hard at work trying to expand upon his fatally flawed Crosscheck program, which he cooked up following the 2016 election, after President Trump made totally baseless claims of voter fraud as the reason he lost the popular vote.

Kobach has used Trump’s bogus claim as a rationale to bring voter suppression to the whole country, has been marred with security breaches, risky data management, and embarrassment. But Indiana isn’t joining in — at least, not for now.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt blocked Indiana from trying to enforce a law passed in 2017 that would have allowed state election officials to kick people off the voter rolls if they were flagged by the Interstate Crosscheck Program.

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This controversial tracking system compares the voter registration databases between the states that have been participating in it, seeking duplicates, and flags it for states to eliminate from their databases.

The ACLU filed the challenge to the law — Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 442 — on behalf of Common Cause Indiana, the League of Women Voters, and the NAACP, who argued that the Indiana law violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), disenfranchising voters. Pratt agreed in her ruling, writing: “The court agrees with Common Cause that the greater public interest is in allowing eligible voters to exercise their right to vote without being disenfranchised without notice.”

Judge Walton noted that while state officials do have the public interest in mind when trying to protect voter integrity, they “have other procedures in place that can protect that public interest that do not violate the NVRA.”

The plaintiffs argued that the Indiana law violated the NVRA because it used a system, Crosscheck, that relied on bad information, did not apply it uniformly, and allowed officials to kick voters off without trying to seek written confirmation from them.

The NVRA requires that in order to remove a voter, a state must get the voter to confirm in writing they have changed residence, or demonstrate the voter has failed to respond to two notifications and failed to vote in two federal elections.

The state now cannot enforce the law until there is some resolution from the Common Cause Indiana lawsuit.

It’s not at though Indiana was being lax in seeking to winnow its voter files, however.

In the few months after the 2016 election, the state canceled almost half a million voter registrations — 10 percent of the state’s total. The registrations were canceled after residents failed to response to two postcards seeking to confirm their address, as well as failing to vote in the November 2016 elections.

Eight states have stopped using the Crosscheck program yet have not formally withdrawn, which still exposes their residents’ information to security risks. It has caused thousands of eligible voters to be removed from voter rolls nationwide.

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In January, Florida notified 945 people that it would offer them free credit checks because it sent their Social Security numbers through unsecured email to Kansas for the Crosscheck program, and those numbers became public in a public records request. The system Kansas uses to secure data was found to be easily hackable.

After resistance from many states, Trump disbanded the voter fraud commission Kris Kobach helped lead. Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, said the commission actually “brought about a lot of questions about [Kobach’s] crosscheck program and the security of it.”