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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE – Hundreds of voters wait in line at the Rousseau Centre during the November elections.

Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:00 am

Voter registrations purged

Indiana cuts 10% of names over outdated info

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Missing voters

The number of names removed this year from voter registration rolls in northeast Indiana counties:

Adams 1,161

Allen 32,307

DeKalb 2,969

Huntington 1,987

Kosciusko 4,905

Noble 3,013

Steuben 1,475

Wells 1,088

Whitley 859

Source: Indiana secretary of state

Nearly 50,000 names have been removed from voter registration rolls in northeast Indiana since the Nov. 8 general election, including more than 32,000 in Allen County.

That translates to almost 10 percent of the more than 502,000 people who had been registered to vote in nine counties in the most recent election, the same as the state rate.

The Indiana secretary of state's office announced this week that more than 481,000 voter registrations have been nullified statewide in a “voter list maintenance program” funded by the General Assembly. The process is known informally in political circles as “purging.”

The state said it culled from voter registration rolls those Hoosiers who since 2014 failed to update either outdated or inaccurate registration information after two mailings from the Indiana Election Division. Also removed were those people who did not respond to repeated mailings and had not voted in any election after 2013.

The secretary of state's office noted that state and federal laws prevent voter registrations from being “inactivated” for simply failing to vote in elections.

“Updating these records will help us create a more accurate picture of voter turnout for the state, which has been reported as inaccurately low due to the large number of outdated registrations, while protecting the integrity of our elections,” Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a news release.

Statewide voter turnout in the past decade has ranged from 13 percent in the 2014 primary election to 62 percent in the 2008 general election.

Barry Schust, Republican member of the Allen County Board of Voter Registration, said in a telephone interview that the number of local voter registration cancellations reported by the state – 32,307 – was about the same as that identified by county officials.

Schust said many of the automatic cancellations probably were for people who had moved to another address, city or state and failed to notify election officials of the change. He doubted the Allen County list contained many dead people; the voter registration board works with the local health board to identify registered voters who have died, Schust said.

The purge in Allen County amounted to 11.7 percent of the county's 276,407 residents identified as registered voters for the Nov. 8 general election, compared with roughly 10 percent statewide with Tipton County yet to be counted.

Schust said updating voter registrations “allows us to get a more accurate depiction of the registered voters out there, which allows the election board to hopefully more accurately allot their voting machines in the precincts” during elections.

He said it also might eliminate potential voter fraud and help political candidates and parties better target their campaign efforts, including mailings.

“It hopefully goes a long way to reducing costs for candidates, for parties, for counties, for the state,” Schust said.

Allen County had the highest rate of voter registration cancellations in northeast Indiana. By far the smallest purge in the region was in Whitley County, where 859 names were removed from the voter registration roll, or 3.8 percent of that county's registered voters as of November. Other area rates ranged from 5.6 percent in Wells County to 9.7 percent in Noble County.

Counties with high purge rates included Monroe, home to a large college-student population at Indiana University, 19.6 percent; Crawford, 18.5 percent; Parke, 17.9 percent; and Scott, 17.2 percent.

Angie Nussmeyer, Democratic co-director of the Indiana Election Division, said in an email that she knew of no voter whose registration was canceled by mistake as a result of the voter list maintenance program. She said anyone whose registration might have been erroneously canceled may vote after signing an affidavit confirming they live at their registration address and completing a registration form.

Nussmeyer urged people to contact local voter registration officials to ensure their voting status.

“It's much easier to correct a problem now when there are no regularly scheduled elections rather than in 2018, when it may be too late to update just before the election,” she said.

“Same-day voter registration would alleviate many of these concerns, but the Indiana General Assembly would have to support such a measure, and bills filed over the years have not been given a hearing.”

Indiana Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat said in an email, “The best way to prevent being among those whose names are removed is to get out and vote.”

People who wish to register to vote or update or verify their voter registration information can do so online at www.indianavoters.com.

The state has conducted more mailings to update voter registrations after the 2018 elections.

bfrancisco@jg.net