Why would a government leader ever want to remove voters from the rolls? Uh, because they want to suppress the vote.
In 2017, Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, is reported to have purged 481, 235 voters from the rolls since 2014. Lawson said it was a way to clear out inactive voters and tighten up voting data. This makes a tiny bit of sense, especially since Indiana has had historically low voter turnout. Voter turnout has actually declined as Marion County’s voter registration numbers increased.
Lawson went a step further and removed Indiana citizens who had voter registrations in other states. Again, this makes some of logical sense to prevent double voting or former Indiana residents from swinging Indiana elections.
However, tighter data, turnout increases and voter fraud prevention are far from the ultimate impact of moves made by the current Indiana Secretary of State. When Lawson’s office began wiping out hundreds of thousands of voters from the system, they intentionally cut out inactive voters who were people of color. Just to enrage you a bit more, this is a photo of 79,143 voter records that were deleted last year.
Here’s the thing–when you mail an inactive voter (lets say a low income minority) a letter saying, “I am going to take away a right that you opted-into but haven’t taken advantage of,” that voter isn’t going to respond. They weren’t responding to the opportunity to vote in the first place. To compound the issue, mail is not be the best medium to reach low-income minority voters.
That voter may respond to a ballot that addresses the issues of their community. In addition, when the party puts someone who looks like that population on the ticket, it may inspire some non-voters to vote. Barack Obama didn’t win because he was black. He won because he was a qualified candidate, he communicated an incredible message, and his ethnicity activated dormant voters in every corner of the United States.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about the Secretary of State’s marketing budget. The Secretary of State can fund non-partisan voter education and turnout campaigns. Instead of doing good with this money, when Todd Rokita was Indiana’s Secretary of State, he used this marketing budget to promote himself into his next job. We have an opportunity to help our community understand the voting process, know who they’re voting for, and show up to vote.
It’s time to elect a secretary of state who will use their power to expand access to democracy.
This writing may seem to attack Indiana Republicans. It attacks certain Indiana Republicans. Connie Lawson intentionally engaged in voter suppression tactics, and she is being sued for it. Todd Rokita could have used state funds to drive voter excellence instead of his own career. This piece also challenges Democrats and Republicans to win races by presenting a racially balanced ticket, messaging that is targeted for minority constituencies, and voter education that drives turnout.
It’s time for us all to do better.