Voter Suppression in South Bend?

From a friend of mine (who wants to remain anonymous) on her experiences attempting to vote in South Bend:


I tried to vote early today. I registered to vote with the DMV several weeks ago before the deadline, and also waited in a long line there to get a new Indiana driver's license in order to meet the stringent Indiana residency and ID requirements for voting.

The only requirements for voting, as listed on the Indiana state government website, are to be a registered voter and to present a US or Indiana issued ID.

I showed up with my Indiana driver's license. After seeing me and my successful registration in the computer, the staff member said my status was listed as "pending", and told me to go upstairs four floors to new voter registration so that they could flip my status from "pending" to "not pending". (It was unclear what exactly was "pending", since my registration from a few weeks ago had gone through and they could see it in the computer. She did not clarify despite my asking several times what, exactly, was "pending".)

I obliged and went to the fourth floor, where a voter registration employee found me again in the computer, and said that in order to vote, I'd need to bring a letter that the DMV had sent verifying my information. (!) I said that there was nothing about this in any voter rules, including anything listed on the Indiana government website or any other materials. I offered several other forms of proof of Indiana residency, and also offered to come back in a few minutes with my passport. But the employee said that I could not vote without an extra letter from the DMV verifying the veracity of my registration or information (it was not clear which purpose the letter was supposed to serve)-- a letter that has not arrived weeks after receiving my Indiana license, and possibly might not arrive in time for election day.

I'm lucky: I have a flexible job that will permit me to go back and try this again if I receive that letter. And I will wait in any line and deal with whatever barriers they throw my way in order to vote. But others might not be so lucky-- others that took off work to try to vote, and were rejected for reasons not listed anywhere on any official documentation.


A bad voter suppression update, I'm afraid. After making several calls to county and state officials this morning, they all had similar explanations: local and state voting officials were flooded with registration requests at the last minute and thus many on-time registrations from several weeks ago were still "pending". Bringing a county-issued letter to the polling station is sufficient to switch one's status from "pending" to "not pending". There are several things wrong with this:

(1) Early voting has already started. If my experience is generalizable, hundreds of thousands of legally and punctually registered voters will not be able to vote because of their "pending" status.

(2) I have received no such letter in the mail, weeks after registering at the DMV. Many others probably have not either.

(3) The letter is not legally required to be able to vote, according to several online sources and the letter itself, which apparently instructs the receiver to retain it for their own records. The only requirements for voting are being a registered voter and having a state or government issued ID.

So this is a multi-step voter suppression technique. First, define a category in between "registered to vote" and "not registered to vote" and call it "pending". Then, hold countless residents who registered on time in that category. Next, do not send the official document that will switch residents from not being able to vote to being able to vote. Finally, deny residents voting rights at the polling stations without saying anything about these supposedly required documents on official election material -- documents that the county has not sent out, thus denying countless legally registered people their right to vote.


This is subtler than the techniques that are being used elsewhere in our state, but no less worrisome.

When Shayla and I first arrived in South Bend something similar happened to us. We wanted to vote in the local and state elections, and made sure to register ahead of time -- but when the time came to vote, we were told that we had to have a official Indiana IDs. I had a temporary driver's license (my permanent one was in the mail), and wasn't allowed to vote. I was super surprised, since I'd voted in MN elections just by having someone vouch for me (and presenting a bill with my name and address on it). To be honest, it's ridiculous that we even have to register almost a month ahead of time. 

Do others have stories of possible voter suppression here in South Bend (or IN more generally)?

Does anyone know of anything that's being done about it, or anything concerned Hoosiers can do to address it?