By Sophia Barberini
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – As attacks on voting rights throughout the country soar, Indiana’s Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals took a step in combating these voting infringements this week by blocking a purge law that would have permitted the state to remove registered voters from the list of eligible voters without their consent.
On July 19, Indiana’s Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Sullivan, that Indiana’s purge law would violate the 1993 National Voter Registration Act which was meant to increase voter registration.
A version of this purge law, Senate Enrolled Act 442 (SEA 442) initially came in 2017 and was met with an injunction by the Seventh Circuit after the Brennan Center for Justice filed a suit over it on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.
The Seventh Circuit enacted this injunction after concluding that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act.
Indiana then passed a new law, Senate Enrolled Act 334 (SEA 334), in 2020 to amend SEA 442. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, NAACP, and League of Women Voters, this law violated the National Voter Registration Act, just as SEA 442 did.
SEA 334, which has been labeled a “purge law,” as highlighted by the League of Women Voters, “would have allowed the state to remove Indiana registrants from the list of eligible voters without direct communication from the voter and without following the notice and waiting period required by the National Voter Registration Act.”
This law, according to Barbara Bolling-Williams, the president of the Indiana State Conference of NAACP, would have disproportionately affected the state’s Black and Brown voters, who are the voters predominantly purged from eligible voter lists.
Linda Hanson, the co-president of the League of Women Voters in Indiana, acknowledges that voter list maintenance is needed, but argues that it must be done in a way to protect the rights of voters.
“Indiana’s purge law would have put eligible voters at risk of being dropped from the rolls. That’s wrong. Indiana’s voters deserve better,” said Hanson.
The Seventh Circuit, concurring with the arguments of Bolling-Williams and Hanson, ruled that SEA 334, like SEA 442, violates the National Voter Registration Act which is meant to protect American voters from being disenfranchised by voter list maintenance.
Labeling SEA 442 as a “shortcut around voters’ rights,” Eliza Sweren-Becker, Voting Rights and Elections counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, asserted, “A person’s vote is her voice. The Seventh Circuit has again affirmed that Indiana can’t do an end-run around federal law designed to protect voters.”
The Seventh Circuit’s decision comes as “a win for democracy and racial justice,” said Bolling-Williams.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “remanded the case to the district court, directing the lower court to revise the permanent injunction consistent with Seventh Circuit’s opinion.”