The police raid of a massive voter registration drive in Indiana could prove disastrous for Black voters in the state.
Indiana State Police were reportedly investigating whether or not the Indiana Voter Registration Project was in violation of “fraud and forgery laws,” when law enforcement officials shut down their voter registration drive in early October. The IVRP drive, which is the largest in the state and utilized by mostly African-American residents, had registered nearly 45,000 people to vote when police intervened. Prior to the raid on the IVRP offices, workers for the group say police also visited them at their homes to aggressively interrogate them about whether or not the group set illegal quotas for employees to meet. “That’s what they kept on asking me: ‘How many did they tell you to get? How many did they tell you to get?’” 57-year-old IVRP worker Lydia Garrett told a reporter for The New Republic. “And I said: ‘Sir, you can come back with two or three [registrations] and you’re still paid. I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
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Given that the Indiana voter registration deadline was still a full week away when the drive was shut down, IVRP spokesperson Bill Buck told Think Progress that at least 5,000 more people could have missed the opportunity to register.
While it hasn’t yet been confirmed that the 45,000 people who successfully registered won’t be able to vote next month, Indiana State Police official Bill Bursten’s description of the investigation process does little to indicate otherwise. “It will be up to each prosecutor to review the completed investigation and take whatever action they, as the local prosecuting authority, deem appropriate,” Bursten said. “Investigations of this nature are complicated and can take an extended period of time to complete.” Republican lawmakers in the state have yet to provide information about what led them to suspect the drive of “fraud or forgery” in the first place and given that voter suppression efforts targeting Black communities are currently on the rise, the incident is certainly cause for suspicion.
The IVRP launched in April of 2016 in an effort to increase voter turnout specifically in African-American neighborhoods in the Indianapolis area.