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7/16/2017 6:56:00 AM
In face of fraud study, Indiana Secretary of State cites Hoosier election integrity
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson talks Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce President David Haynes about her confidence in the state's elections during her visit to his office, Thursday, July 13, 2017. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
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Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson talks Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce President David Haynes about her confidence in the state's elections during her visit to his office, Thursday, July 13, 2017. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza

Sue Loughlin, Tribune-Star

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson remains confident in the integrity of elections conducted in Indiana and other states, and she believes elections and voter registration are the responsibility of the states.

At the same time, as a member of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, she is not opposed to a review. Trump has alleged fraud in the presidential election.

“I would repeat what one of my fellow commissioners, the secretary of state from Maine, Matt Dunlap, stated: ‘Sunshine is a great disinfectant.’ So, if we think [voter fraud] might be there, why should we not look?’” she asked. There have been some instances of voter fraud in Indiana, she said.

Still, Lawson also repeated her recent testimony before the U.S. Senate, saying that “no votes in the election were changed as the result of any nefarious activity.”

Lawson was in Terre Haute on Thursday at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce to meet with Terre Haute Women In Action to talk about women in leadership roles and her own experiences as a Republican county clerk, state senator and now, Indiana secretary of state.

Lawson has taken on some prominent roles lately, not only as a member of the president’s election integrity commission, but also, as of this week, as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. The group met in Indianapolis last weekend.

As for her service on Trump’s election integrity commission, Lawson said, “I’m honored to serve on the commission. I think Indiana can be a shining example of how to run elections across the country. And I think we can share some good common sense Hoosier values.”

So far, there has been only an organizational call, she said. “I don’t really know for sure the exact subject matter of any of the meetings. I think it’s an opportunity for Indiana to have some good representation on the commission,” she said.

According to Lawson, the national association passed a resolution without any “no” votes, “basically telling the federal government we all felt elections are the responsibility of the states and we wanted to keep it that way.” Both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state supported that position, she said.

Trump, who created the election integrity commission in May, has claimed without evidence that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election, costing him the popular vote. Trump won based on a majority in the Electoral College, defeating Hillary Clinton. Recently, the vice chairman of the commission, Kris Kobach of Kansas, asked for voter roll information from all 50 states. Most states said they could not provide all the information, and several refused to provide any.

Lawson’s position was that Indiana law allowed only certain information to be shared — voter names, congressional districts and addresses. “I already made a public statement that I wasn’t going to release any information that included dates of birth, Social Security numbers or any private information,” she said when meeting with Terre Haute media.

The latest development is that a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Indiana voter advocacy groups to stop Lawson from sharing voter information with Trump’s election commission. Those groups include the League of Women Voters of Indiana and the Indiana chapter of the NAACP.

Lawson had no comment on that lawsuit. “It’s actually up to the Indiana Election Division, and no one has filled out proper forms to get the information yet,” she said. “But just so you know, the [national] commission is no longer accepting data [from the states].”

Earlier this month, a privacy watchdog — Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center — filed suit to prevent the national commission from collecting voter information. It argued there are no established safeguards to ensure that personal data are protected. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union also filed suit, charging that the commission isn’t following federal law requiring it to be open to the public.

In talking with media, Lawson affirmed her confidence in state elections and the integrity of the process.

“I do have confidence in our elections. I will tell you, there is a huge difference between a national party’s data base being hacked and changing the result of the election,” she said.

Lawson recently testified before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, “and more than once, senators on the committee as well as myself and other witnesses, stated that day that no votes in the election were changed as the result of any nefarious activity,” she said.

“It’s important to know our voting machines are not connected to the internet, nor are they connected to one another. Our tabulation machines are not connected to the internet, nor are they connected to one another,” Lawson said. “Our electronic poll books, like Vigo County uses, are not connected to the actual statewide voter registration data base. Because of the decentralization of our elections, across the country, that is what protects our elections.”

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Standing against vote data incursion; election commission overextends its reach
• Few Hoosier voters ask to be removed from registration lists
• Indiana already sharing extensive voter data with Trump advisory commission leader

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