In releasing the report, Pew officials said they didn't believe bad voter rolls were an indicator of widespread voter fraud. But they did find them worrisome.
David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Center said error-laden voter rolls "waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections."
Andrew Downs, a political scientist and the director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, concurs. "Anything that contributes to the potential for fraud that is unaddressed undermines voter confidence."
There may be no easy fix. Cleaning the voter registration roll is both expensive and fraught with political peril.
The State of Florida is engaged in a bitter battle over efforts to purge its voter rolls of an estimated 180,000 voters whose citizenship status is in question. Critics, including Justice Department lawyers, contend the purge is based on outdated information and disproportionately targets voters with Hispanic surnames. Democrats charge Florida's Republican-led purge is a nefarious attempt to disenfranchise voters who are likely to vote Democratic.
Indiana has been here before. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department, under Republican President George Bush, pushed the state's Election Commission into signing a consent decree in which the state agreed to work with county officials to clean up Indiana voter registration rolls. The consent decree also required the state to provide annual reports to the Justice Department, explaining how the state was keeping those rolls clean.
But that consent decree expired in 2009.
Depending on what happens with the Justice Department inquiry and the Judicial Watch lawsuit, the Indiana General Assembly may be forced to take up the issue in the next session. Lawson said it will take about $2 million for the state to purge its voter registration rolls of invalid registrations; that's money that will likely have to be appropriated by the legislature.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org