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Indiana Election Officials Target Black Voter Registration Drive

african american woman voting ballot box
Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Just one week ahead of Indiana’s Oct. 11 voter registration deadline, state police issued and executed a search warrant at the Indiana Voter Registration Project’s (IVRP) headquarters. The organization had set out to register Black voters in a state with the worst voter turnout in the country.

The search took place just a few weeks after Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson sent a letter to Indiana election officials warning that “nefarious actors are operating” in the state. The letter asked election officials to inform authorities if they received any voter registration forms from the group.

Lawson co-sponsored Indiana’s controversial voter ID law when she was a state legislator. Craig Varoga, president of Patriot Majority USA, a liberal nonprofit that ran the Indiana Voter Registration Project, said the Oct. 4 police action prevented the group from registering 5,000 to 10,000 additional voters ahead of the state’s voter registration deadline. He fears that clerks won’t count some of the 45,000 applications the group had previously collected.

The state didn’t interrupt the IVRP’s initiative due to a mass “voter fraud” scheme, and according to the Huffington Postit seems the investigation is likely to find no more than potential technical violations of  obscure regulations for third-party registration groups.

According to the media outlet, the investigation appears to stem from a series of problematic forms received by the county clerk’s office. The forms were allegedly submitted by IVRP canvassers.

In mid-September, Lawson issued a press release accusing IVRP of turning in “forged voter registration applications,” but evidence wasn’t clear that those forms were actually forged. IVRP was following the law when it turned in the forms, even if they were fraudulent.

Asked if IVRP had failed to submit affidavits, Capt. David Bursten, a spokesman for the Indiana State Police, said that’s one piece of the investigation.

“We would have no reason for doing this investigation unless there were indications that there are potential violations of state law,” he said.

More than two dozen officers are working on the case. Doug Carter, the head of the state police, said the investigation will likely go past Election Day.

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