“You are leading a government attack against your own citizens”
Amid allegations by the Trump campaign that the presidential election has been “rigged,” Republican officials in Indiana have accused advocacy groups of possible voter fraud.
This, in turn, has caused counter-accusations of voter suppression in the state and allegations that Governor Mike Pence, who is Trump’s running mate, has mobilized authorities to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.
On October 4, Indiana state police raided the offices of the Indiana Voter Registration Project (an affiliate of the Democrat-leaning Patriot Majority), an organization that mainly works to get out the vote of African Americans.
State police seized computers, phones, files, and thousands of voter registration applications. There were also accusations that police barred staff at the organization from filming the raid.
The raid was part of a wider investigation into voter fraud in the state that had begun in August in two counties. The investigation has now spread to more than 50 counties in the state.
It is still unclear what prompted the investigation but the state’s top election official, the Republican Secretary of State for Indiana, Connie Lawson, alleged publicly that there may be evidence of voter fraud in the state.
She claimed that “thousands” of name and date-of-birth changes on voting records might be due to fraud. She then reversed her statements a few days later claiming that the changes could be legitimate. One county official said that Lawson’s comments were too hasty given that it’s difficult to know if the changes were simply someone changing their name or address or was simply in error.
"I don't know how you distinguish between people purposely changing their information and those who didn’t," Hamilton County, Republican elections administrator Kathy Richardson said, as reported in USA Today.
"In an election like this, where everyone wants to vote, you are going to get a lot of changes. People change their first names or last names or change their addresses. Especially people who haven't voted in a while."
Indiana State police said that its investigation has indeed uncovered instances of fraud but did not get into details about the nature of it and how widespread it was.
This hasn’t sat well with Patriot Majority, which is accusing Indiana of voter suppression just ahead of the election.
The group accused Indiana Gov. Mike Pence of using state police to alter election results and to suppress the voices of black voters in the state.
“Mike Pence has a well oiled political machine that is using the Indiana State Police to suppress African American votes and violate the Constitutional rights of tens of thousands of Hoosiers,” read a statement by the group.
In a new radio ad by the group targeted at black voters, a man said, “You are leading a government attack against your own citizens.”
Both the police and the Governor have denied any wrongdoing and have said the allegations are false.
The group also said that the state’s own errors and bad clerical work may have caused the inaccuracies.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear that allegations of voter fraud is bad for the election and bad for a belief in democracy in general. It also feeds the notion that the crime may be more widespread than it actually is.
Trump has resurrected the notion that the election could be rigged by fraud (and the media) and has urged supporters to “check out” the polls in “certain” areas, which we can only assume means Democrat-leaning communities, probably in swing states.
The Los Angeles Times, in an attempt to clarify how rare voter fraud is, created a handy look at the allegations of it in 2016 to date. There aren’t many, and what there is, like in Indiana, remains very unclear and suspiciously partisan.