Indiana Bill Could Erroneously Purge Legitimate Voters

By Marissa Liebling January 26, 2017
Letter to Senator Walker on omnibus election bill SB 442.

Project Vote and Common Cause Indiana are urging an Indiana Senator Greg Walker to reconsider legislation that puts registered voters at risk. His omnibus bill, SB 442 includes a troubling list maintenance procedure (voter roll list maintenance is the process states use to identify and remove from the rolls voters who are no longer eligible, such as voters who have moved or died). While this provision may be well intentioned, the potential consequences are severe.

Good list maintenance helps keep “clean” voter registration lists, which allow officials to better plan and administer the election process. For example, the Electronic Registration Information Center program, or “ERIC” uses many data points to increase accuracy with the added benefit of outreach to those identified as eligible but not registered to vote. However, bad list maintenance procedures can purge eligible, properly registered voters from the rolls. Now, Senator Walker wants to use a bad list maintenance program—the Interstate Crosscheck program—to remove Indiana voters from the rolls.

What’s wrong with the Crosscheck program? In sum: the error rate. The standard Crosscheck procedures compare the Indiana voter file to other lists using only people’s first name, last name, and date of birth. But statistical research demonstrates that many people share these three data points. As noted in our letter, one prominent example of this problem “is the purging of Florida Governor Rick Scott from the voter rolls in 2006 due to a mistaken belief that he was dead. Another Rick Scott with the same date of birth died, resulting in a ‘match’ of death records to Governor Scott’s voter record.”

Even worse, this bill calls for the immediate removal of voters when there is a match indicating ineligibility. Luckily, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) provides protections by specifying the circumstances and procedures for removing voters from the rolls. As written, this bill would directly violate the NVRA. For this reason, and the dangerous potential for false matches, Project Vote is urging Senator Walker to withdraw or amend his bill.