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Voter advocates file complaint against Tippecanoe County election board

This article was originally published in the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette, along with Common Cause Indiana, filed an administrative complaint Thursday against the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections and Registration, claiming ongoing violations related to voter registration.

According to the complaint, members of the local League of Women Voters learned Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush instructed her staff to require voters registering for the first time with a hand-delivered registration form to show additional proof of residency.

"This requirement is a violation of state and federal voter registration laws, which requires the additional residency documentation ONLY when a voter registration form is delivered by the United States Postal Service," according to a release from Common Cause Indiana, a nonpartisan organization promoting open, ethical, and accountable government across the state.  

The Journal & Courier left a message with Roush seeking comment and will update this story if one is received.

 

The complaint states that the issue arose in fall 2021 as League of Women Voters volunteers began registering high school students in the Tippecanoe County area and were told by the students they were asked by the election board to provide proof of residence to complete their voter registrations.   

"We were immediately concerned," according to a statement on the League's website. "Most high school students can't easily prove their residence (they don't pay utility bills and rent the place where they live) and until this type of proof was provided their votes would not be counted." 

The complaint asks the Indiana Election Division to review all registrations entered by Tippecanoe County since Jan. 1, 2018, to identify any voter registrations that required more residency documentation for approval and completion.

"Despite written communication from both the Republican and Democrat co-directors of the (Indiana Election Division) that their additional requirements violate the law," Common Cause stated, "Tippecanoe County continues this practice."

First-time voters are quite often high school students and, in the case of Purdue University in Tippecanoe County, college students— a point Ken Jones, chairman of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette Voter Services Committee, referenced in Thursday's announcement.

“The League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette works hard to register voters and encourage civic participation in our community," Jones stated.  "We have a long tradition of outreach at high schools and area colleges to register first-time voters. Our efforts are being undermined by county election officials, who are requiring new voters to jump through additional hoops before their votes will be counted. This is unnecessary and unlawful, and our complaint seeks to bring it to an end, since county officials aren’t willing to take the state’s directives.”

The complaint can be found at leaguelafayette.org

Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana, said in the statment, “We joined this complaint because it is critically important that every county in Indiana implement our voting laws consistently and by the book. 

"It’s already harder to vote in Indiana than in most other states. Erecting additional administrative barriers to the ballot box cannot be allowed, and we hope that the action we are taking today will force Tippecanoe County to come into compliance with the law and send notice to other counties that violations won’t be tolerated.”