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GOP defends Indiana voting security measure facing criticism

UPDATE: A legislative committee on Thursday overhauled a proposal to require Indiana voters to submit identification numbers with mail-in ballot applications.

Changes approved Thursday by the House elections committee will only require submission of a voter’s Indiana driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number with online mail ballot applications.

Previous reporting:

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Election security or voter suppression: Those were the issues raised Tuesday about a bill that would make changes to Indiana’s election rules.

No action was taken after hours of debate, but further debate is expected to happen Thursday.

Under the bill, Hoosiers who apply for absentee ballots would have to include their driver’s license numbers or the last four of their Social Security numbers.

“We think that here is just tremendous potential for that to cause problems and cause the application to be rejected,” Julia Vaughn, policy director with Common Cause Indiana, told a legislative committee.

While I appreciate that there has been a lot of talk about this legislation’s intent is to improve how voters believe elections are run, to increase their trust in the process. Again, I think that what you are doing is creating a process that through no fault of their own, voters can be potentially disenfranchised.” 

Tood Rokia, the Indiana attorney general, who is a Republican, told the committee, “Case law supports the constitutionality of absentee ballot verification laws.” 

The Republican attorney general also said, “That’s why it’s important now, more than ever, that we institute common-sense reforms at the state and local level to safeguard our elections.”

Rokita added, “The common-sense guardrails proposed under (Senate Bill) 353 would further protect Indiana’s elections from voter fraud and ensure the authority to implement changes to our election process lies exclusively with you and not un-elected servants in our government.”

Steve Fry, senior vice president of human resources and diversity at pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co., told the legislative committee, “As we reviewed this bill, our opinion is that it is a solution in search of a problem, a solution that has the potential to make it more difficult for some Hoosier voters, particularly in vulnerable populations, to cast their ballot, to have their voice heard.” 

Fry added, “There’s another concerning aspect of this bill at this time and place. It serves only to confer acceptance of a widespread falsehood that there is something to be questioned about the outcome of last year’s election. This effort and others like it, albeit using different language, only serve to perpetuate the narrative that the 2020 election outcome was flawed or compromised in some way.”

Barbara Tully, president of Indiana Vote By Mail, told lawmakers, “With Senate Bill 353, Indiana is limiting options for voters. Instead of making it easier for voters to exercise their right to vote, with Senate Bill 353, Indiana is clearly erecting barriers for voters.” 

State Sen. Erin Houchin, a Republican from Salem, said, “I authored Senate Bill 353 to increase election security. The United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 4, provides that only state legislatures have the responsibility of changing the time, place and manner of holding elections.”

Houchin also told the committee that several other states have similar voter ID requirements for absentee ballot applications. “There’s a lot of talk about the Georgia law and controversies surrounding that. In Indiana, our IDs are free. So, if we need to add the non-driver’s ID card as a way to ameliorate some of those concerns, I’m certainly open to doing that.”

Houchin disagreed with voter suppression claims. “It’s our responsibility and duty to make sure through these types of processes, that each person only has one vote. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do. We’re just trying to bring it to one person, one vote.”

 The proposal would also do a few other things:

  • Not let the governor change how, when or where elections are held.
  • Not allow the election commission to establish, increase or expand vote by mail or absentee vote by mail.

The proposal already passed Feb. 22 in the Senate.

Statement

“As I read Senate Bill 353, it was clear the policy’s intentions are to create a new requirement that will confuse and intimidate Hoosiers from participating in their American right to vote.

“Hoosiers should not have to be election law experts. The state should be making the ballot box more available and equitable for our voters, not throwing all the onus on them. Indiana Republicans continue to prioritize their partisan agenda ahead of fairness — and it’s going to harm the future of our state and its families in the process.”  

Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge, a Democrat

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