Indiana’s recent history with voter registration is somewhat baffling, to say the least. The state seems to swing like a pendulum between liberal and conservative measures and priorities, and compliance and defiance of federal mandates that extend the availability of registration materials to new populations. An illustrative juxtaposition would be that the rhetoric of voter fraud is often at the forefront of Indiana election debates, yet the legislature authorized online voter registration in 2009, when many viewed the use of computer technology as enabling fraud.
The first subject that comes to any election law junkie’s mind in discussing Indiana’s election code is the state’s voter ID requirement and the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the law in its 2008 decision, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. In that case, Indiana asserted a governmental interest in preventing voter fraud at the polls, pointing to its “unusually inflated list of registered voters” as a major source of concern. While Crawford was not centered on voter registration, the state’s arguments reveal a lack of confidence in the voter registration process’ ability to prevent fraud.
Fast-forwarding to this past year, two other events mark the voter registration debate. First, in March, a grand jury indicted Secretary of State Charlie White with three counts of voter fraud: “filing [a] fictitious registration,” “voting where not registered,” and “fraudulent registration.” White was registered at his ex-wife’s home and voted in that district, even though he had moved away. Ironically, the Secretary of State serves as the chief election officer. The Indiana Recount Commission determined that White was eligible to run for that office, but he is still awaiting his criminal trial. This scandal has shined a spotlight on registration issues, but fraud has not been the rallying point. All of the parties involved with the accusations, White, his Democrat opponents, and the Commission, agree that registration residency requirements have to be liberalized to account for nontraditional living configurations. Continue reading