La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman John Jones began to suspect there was problem late last week when he started getting calls from early voters who said they’d been turned away by election officials as ineligible.
The county set out in 2011 to clean up its rolls, purging those who had failed to vote in the previous two federal election cycles. The exercise was expected to involve around 800 names, many of them people who were dead, incarcerated or had left the northwest Indiana county about 60 miles east of Chicago.
But Jones was hearing from residents who were quite alive and had voted in 2008. When state officials looked at the list of cancelled voters, it turned out that the purge was more of a mini-massacre. Records showed more than 13,000 voters had been dropped, about 16 percent of the 80,000 La Porte voters registered in 2008. Jones has asked for a Justice Department investigation.
“We didn’t expect this in our county,” said Jones. “We’re not going to tolerate this. We have a lot of citizens who are outraged.”
The purge was supervised by the county’s Republican co-director of voter registration, Donna Harris, who happens to be married to La Porte County Republican Chairman Keith Harris, who appointed her to the job in February 2010. He also happens to be on the ballot this year, as a candidate for circuit court clerk. (He ran unsuccessfully for other offices prior to hiring his wife). Much of the pruning of the rolls was done while the Democratic co-director was out for three months on medical leave.
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