Local Democrats called the decision by the 7th District Court of Appeals Monday to further block a 2020 state law allowing election officials to immediately purge voter registration for people to appear to have registered in another state a victory for Indiana voters.

The decision upholds an order issued by an Indianapolis-based judge that blocked the law enacted in 2020 from taking effect. The appeals court disparaged the law adopted by the Republican-dominated Legislature as an attempt to get around court rulings against a similar 2017 law.

The revised law dropped a much-criticized national voter database started by Kansas officials in favor of Indiana election officials collecting voter registration information from other states to compare with Indiana’s. The Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of appeals called the change “different window dressing” that was “largely cosmetic.”

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, in a statement Tuesday said he applauds the U.S. Court of Appeals for blocking legislation that would have purged voters. Melton said he voted against the legislation when it was in front of the General Assembly and warned at the time it violated voters’ rights.

“Attempts to remove residents voter registration status, without so much as contacting them to let them know they are being purged, is blatant voter suppression. These kinds of tactics do nothing more than undermine our democracy and sow distrust in our elections, and I’m pleased to see those efforts halted in our state,” Melton said.

In its ruling the court faulted Indiana’s revised law for still violating the National Voter Registration Act by allowing county elections officials to remove voters from registration rolls without receiving consent from that person or notifying the voter and letting two federal elections pass without the person voting.

The revised law “impermissible allows Indiana to cancel a voter’s registration without either direct community from the voter or compliance with the NVRA’s notice-and-waiting procedures,” the three-judge appeals panel said.

“We should be making voting easier and more accessible to Hoosiers — not harder. Disappointingly, many states, including ours, are making it increasingly difficult for the voices of the people to be heard in the voting booth by doing things like blocking same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting for all residents,” Melton said. “Despite these efforts, I will continue fighting alongside my caucus to protect the voting rights of our residents and to upgrade our outdated voting system. It is our goal to ensure voting is efficient and accessible to all Hoosiers.”

James Wieser, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Central Committee, agreed with the appeals court and Melton and said the law violates the principles of due process and should be struck down.

Wieser said there could be any number of reasons a person may be registered in different states, but it does not mean that individual is voting in multiple states. If a person registers to vote in Indiana, they are lawfully registered.

“If this law was to be upheld, there would have to be reasonable provisions for due process,” Wieser said. A person alleged to have multiple registrations should have to come to a hearing or provide evidence that indicates they should not be purged, he said.

“That’s only fair,” Wieser said.

Dan Dernulc, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, said allowing a person to be registered in more than one state creates an opportunity for voter fraud, something the Legislature was trying to prevent with the law.

“That was the spirit of what they were trying to do,” Dernulc said.

It will be up to the Legislature to decide how to proceed in the wake of the appeals court ruling.

“The courts have ruled. State legislators will have to look at this and see where they need to go,” Dernulc said.

State Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, deferred comment until he has a chance to review the ruling. State Rep. Michael Aylesworth, R-Hebron, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Lake County Councilman Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who served as a state representative when the 2017 law was passed, said he was pleased with the courts ruling. He said legislation such is this is part of a larger national movement to enact such laws on the local level. Local legislators bring back the template legislation from conservative conventions.

“For some of my former colleagues, it is all about denying the vote to a block of people who want to legitimately vote,” Brown said.

He said in Republican-controlled legislatures, these laws are being pushed through, even though they ultimately wind up being struck down by the courts.

“There is not wholesale voter fraud, yet somehow that is stuck in the craw of voters around this nation,” Brown said.

The Associated Press contributed.

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