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CRIME AND COURTS

Indiana Voter Registration Project under investigation


By Lyndsay Jones



The Indiana Voter Registration Project is under scrutiny after voter fraud was reported in Hendricks and Marion counties in August.

Indiana State Police delivered a search warrant to the IVRP office in downtown Indianapolis on Tuesday as part of the investigation that began in August, which now includes seven counties. The search warrant and affidavit, which include details regarding why the warrant was granted, are sealed until Nov. 3.

“That happens if there’s information that will tarnish our investigation,” ISP public information officer Dave Burton said.

Burton said the warrant was delivered after police in civilian clothes arrived at the office and knocked on the door. Christy Setzer, a spokeswoman on behalf of the IVRP, said the arrival of police was a “raid.”

“This is part of a series of intimidation tactics,” Setzer said.

Setzer said the IVRP did nothing to merit an investigation or allegations of voter fraud.

“The IVRP is a nonpartisan effort to register voters in Indiana,” Setzer said. “We try to reach disenfranchised communities.”

Setzer said problems arose when the IVRP turned in all of the registration forms they had collected. She said the law required them to turn in all forms, even though they knew some of them had been filled out incorrectly.

“They saw that we had a few forms with wrong information and then the police said they had found voter fraud,” Setzer said. “In any operation there’s always a small number filled out incorrectly.”

Setzer said the IVRP exists to get more people registered in Indiana since the state’s voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest among all states. But the IVRP has no social media presence or official website. The group is backed by Patriot Majority, a nonprofit focused on economic development. The funding for the Patriot Majority, according to the most recent documents available from the IRS in 2014, came entirely from contributions and did not include any government grants, investments or sales.

The group’s income for that year was $30,465,276.

In a press release, ISP said it is possible that hundreds of cases of voter fraud will be discovered in their investigation. Monroe County elections supervisor Laura Dahncke said she did not think Monroe County voters were particularly at risk but urged people to take caution.

“I wouldn’t recommend using a third party to register to vote,” Dahncke said.

The Patriot Majority is also making its own complaint in the midst of this investigation. On Tuesday the group sent a press release that included details of a complaint by the group’s president Craig 
Varoga.

“I am writing to lodge a complaint against William Stoney Vann, an Indiana State Trooper, in connection with influence that Mr. Vann is asserting in an attempt to prevent certain Indiana voters from registering to vote,” Varoga wrote.

The press release also included that Vann was using more “intimidation tactics” to discourage African-Americans from voting and any complaints directed at IVRP were part of a “partisan and defamatory attack” on the group by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

Valerie Warycha, director of communications at the secretary of state’s office, said the allegations the Patriot Majority made in the release were unfounded.

“Mid-September, state police came to us and said they had found evidence of voter fraud,” Warycha said. “Hoosiers said, ‘My address has changed but I didn’t do it.’ So we sent out a press release that said ‘Check your 
registration.’”

Warycha said since the release was general, they were not targeting anyone in a partisan manner.

“It’s our duty to tell Hoosiers if their registrations have changed or are wrong,” Warycha said.

Burton said motives behind the instance of voter fraud are unknown.

“I don’t know what the benefit is,” Burton said. “The very people they say they want to help, they are disenfranchising.”

The ISP’s investigation of voter fraud and the IVRP is ongoing.

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