Police Raid of Indiana’s Largest Voter Registration Drive May Block 45K Black Citizens from Voting

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Black woman voting. Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Black woman voting. Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Newly registered Black voters in Indiana might not be able to cast their votes come Election Day after police raided the state’s largest voter registration drive earlier this month.

According to ThinkProgress, police ransacked the Indiana Voter Registration Project (IVRP) offices on Oct. 4 following accusations of voter fraud and forgery law violations from the GOP. Officers seized several documents and equipment, forcing the group to cease operations just one week before Indiana’s voter registration cutoff.

Bill Buck, a spokesman for the liberal nonprofit Patriot Majority USA, which oversees the IVRP, said the organization could have registered about 5,000 more voters in that additional week had the police not raided its offices, ThinkProgress reports.

The IVRP had already registered about 45,000 new voters — the majority of whom were African-American. Organization leaders said they’re unsure of what will become of the voter registration applications and if applicants will even be able to vote on Nov. 8.

Chief public information officer for the Indiana State Police, Bill Bursten, said the investigation into the voter fraud and forgery claims is still ongoing.

“It will be up to each prosecutor to review the completed investigation and take whatever action they, as the local prosecuting authority, deem appropriate,” Bursten told the news site. “Investigations of this nature are complicated and can take an extended period of time to complete.”

The Intercept reports that Indiana’s investigation into the IVRP began in mid-September after Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced that roughly 10 of the group’s voter registration applications were fraudulent and had been forged.

“Unfortunately, it has recently come to my attention that nefarious actors are operating here in Indiana,” Lawson wrote in a letter to elections administrators in the state’s 92 counties. “A group by the name of the Indiana Voter Registration Project has forged voter registrations. If you receive one of these applications, please contact the Indiana State Police Special Investigations.”

Indiana had the worst voter turnout rate in the U.S. in 2014, which is why the IVRP launched that same year in an effort to get people to the polls — particularly people from the African-American community.

Buck said he and members of the organization are still unsure of what law they violated and why they’re being targeted by police and state election officials. He asserted that the raid was likely driven by “voter fraud conspiracies” pushed by Gov. Mike Pence and other GOP politicians, like Lawson.

“We’ve seen nothing but partisan activity from the secretary of state, and even from the police,” Buck said. “They saw that there was a very successful voter registration drive happening, and this was an attempt to shut it down.”

“It fits into the Trump/Pence narrative that in certain neighborhoods, you have to watch how many times people show up to vote and how things happen,” he said of the claims made by Republicans.

Chief Bursten said there is some cause for concern, however. He told the Intercept last week that his officers found “instances of totally fictitious information” on the 10 voter registration applications in question, noting that errors seemed intentional.

“People that didn’t exist with addresses that didn’t exist,” he said. “On others, real people have had their registration cards updated with incorrect information, which would potentially disenfranchise them from being able to cast their vote.”

Buck said he had no evidence that IVRP workers were purposely submitting fraudulent or forged applications. ThinkProgress reported that police actually seized 250 voter registration applications, and that the 10 in question showed no signs of fraud.

Buck still questions the police investigation and argued that the raid ultimately stifled their efforts of getting Indianans registered to vote. According to the Intercept, Patriot Majority USA is planning to file a complaint with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division against the state for voting rights violations.

“We’ve never had the state police involved in any voter registration project,” Buck said. “It’s pretty unprecedented for this to happen.”

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