Politics

There's a Major Controversy Over Police Raiding an Indiana Voter Registration Site

October 26th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

With Election Day mere weeks away, some Indiana voters still aren't sure if they’ll get to cast their ballots, due to an October 4 raid on a voter registration site. Critics alleged the raid was a deliberate attempt to suppress minority voters, who historically vote for Democrats.

The debacle resurfaced in this week's headlines after State Police Superintendent Doug Carter refuted these accusations on a conservative talk radio program on Tuesday.

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On the show, Carter rejected accusations that the investigation that followed the raid was conducted to benefit Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump's running mate Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) appointed Carter.

The raid took place when prospective Indiana voters had only a week left to register before Indiana's voter registration period ended.

From Think Progress:

"Police raided the Indiana Voter Registration Project (IVRP) offices on October 4, seizing documents and equipment and forcing the group to cease its get-out-the-vote efforts one week before the end of the state’s registration period. Bill Buck, a spokesperson for the liberal nonprofit Patriot Majority USA which runs the IVRP, told ThinkProgress that IVRP could have registered about 5,000 more voters in that additional week.

"The IVRP is still unsure whether the 45,000 people it registered will be permitted to vote this year, or how the state will handle their applications while the police investigation is ongoing. Bill Bursten, chief public information officer for the Indiana State Police, told ThinkProgress that law enforcement is investigating whether IVRP violating fraud and forgery laws."

The investigation into IVRP began in early October, when Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson claimed she found high numbers of discrepancies in a state voter registration database, according to CNN.

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"Although the investigation started out in only a handful of counties, it expended to cover 56 of them," CNN reported. "Police also obtained and executed a search warrant for the Indianapolis offices of the Indiana Voter Registration Project."

The incident prompted accusations that Indiana police were deliberately suppressing minority votes. The IVRP office registered large numbers of Black voters, the Huffington Post reports.

Carter denied these accusations in an October 17 statement published on IN.Gov.

From Carter:

“It is very important to recognize that instead of telling Hoosiers they would cooperate with our investigation and working with Indiana officials to get to the bottom of the fraud issue, Patriot Majority USA instead launched a partisan advertising campaign accusing Governor Pence of leading a ‘government attack against’ Hoosiers and the Indiana State Police of ‘police intimidation.’

"This is completely false and I condemn these attacks on the Governor and Indiana State Police in the strongest possible terms. Furthermore, Patriot Majority’s claim that our investigation began at the direction of Governor Pence is false. Governor Pence has never asked me or anyone in the Indiana State Police to initiate any investigation. Any suggestion to the contrary is offensive to me personally and the more than 1,000 troopers who serve with integrity and distinction every single day. The leadership of Patriot Majority should be ashamed of itself for suggesting otherwise."

Critics of Carter have alleged that the investigation benefits the Trump campaign by legitimizing Trump's (false) claims that the election is rigged.

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

“It’s clear that the governor or the governor’s staff are very aware and involved in what’s happening,” he alleged. “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.”

With the investigation ongoing, the IVRP still doesn't know if the 45,000 voters they registered will be allowed to cast their ballots on election day.

ATTN: reached out to the offices of the Indiana State Police Superintendent, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and the Donald Trump campaign for comment. We will update this post as necessary.

On Tuesday, Carter told radio host Tony Katz that the investigation was not fueled by partisan politics, according to a transcript from Indiana radio station WIBC (which broadcasts Katz's show).

"The notion that there is voter fraud is very real," he claimed. "And our job is not to hand-pick these investigations. Our job is to receive that information, try and determine if it's credible in a relatively quick amount of time and then attach the appropriate resources so this is ethically bound and impartial. And that's what we're doing now."

Carter claimed he had not spoken to Pence about the investigation.

Indiana state officials maintain that the investigation is legitimate.

"We looked onto the Statewide Voter Registration System and noticed that there had been an unusually high number of date of birth and first name changes," Secretary of State Connie Lawson told CNN.

"We believe this may be a case of voter fraud and have turned our findings over to the State Police, who are currently conducting an investigation into alleged voter fraud," she said.