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Indiana House OKs new absentee voting rules

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Democrats on Monday said rules on absentee ballots soured what had been a bipartisan election security bill.

On the last day to send bills originating in the House out of that chamber, lawmakers approved a measure to move up the deadline for counties to have paper trails for all electronic voting machines. Counties now will have to do that by July 1, 2024, in time for the 2024 general presidential election.

Democrats objected to a provision that requires anyone using an electronic absentee ballot to provide either their 10-digit driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number to verify their identity.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, an Indianapolis Democrat, said she was dismayed the provision was added to the bill. She said the legislation had enjoyed bipartisan support until then. “This is the voter suppression bill for this session, unfortunately, for this session,” she said. “The only requirement that a person should have to vote absentee is that they’re registered to vote.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Tim Wesco, an Osceola Republican, said the point of the bill is to increase voter confidence in elections by pushing the state to use the best cybersecurity systems and procedures available. He said the absentee ballot provision ensures people voting absentee are who they say they are.

“This bill does not overburden our county clerks with unnecessary, redundant work,” he said.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Legislative leaders said they expect the pace of work to slow down for the rest of this week as the two chambers take stock of each other’s bills.

Any House bill that did not get out of that chamber by the time the House adjourned Monday can no longer move forward, and the same will hold true of Senate bills after Tuesday.

The two chambers will spend February reviewing and amending each other’s bills, with the first two weeks of March set aside for the conference committees that hammer out any differences in legislation.