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Indiana Legislature OKs more verification steps for voter registration

Raymond Broedel casts his ballot at the City-County Building in the final hours of early voting in the primary election in Indianapolis on May 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that expands the power of the state to verify voters’ addresses and adds an additional residency requirement for first-time voters.

The bill’s Republican sponsor, state Sen. Mike Gaskill of Anderson, called it a “commonsense bill” that adds protections against fraud, but voting advocates have blasted the changes as new hurdles for people seeking to legally cast their ballots.

The bill passed the state Senate on a 34-13 vote, largely along party lines, sending it to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his review.

Indiana voters are already required to show photo ID when casting a ballot, and a law passed last year that tightened mail-in voting requirements in the state.

Under the bill, residents who are new voters in Indiana would have to provide proof of residency when registering in person, unless they submit an Indiana driver’s license or Social Security number that matches an Indiana record.

Voting advocates have said the provision adds hurdles to the process for college students, homeless people and the elderly who may not have traditional utility bills, as well as people who just moved to the state.

Additionally, the new bill would allow the state to contract with third-party vendors who supply credit data. The data would be cross referenced with voter registration records to identify possible residence changes and any voters registered at nonresidential addresses.

If the state identifies a voter registration at a nonresidential address, the bill outlines a process to investigate the discrepancy. If unresolved, the voter could eventually be removed from registration.

Opponents say out-of-date or inaccurate credit data could result in some voters eventually losing their registration status.

The bill also requires officials to cross reference the state’s voter registration system with data from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The intent is to identify any noncitizens enrolled in the voter registration system, something voting advocates in Indiana say does not exist.

National researchers also have found few instances but former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have continued to make the unsupported claim.

Indiana law already forbids noncitizens from registering to vote.

The bill says an individual found unlawfully on the voter registration system would have 30 days to provide proof of citizenship to the county voter registration office or face the cancellation of their registration. It does not specify how often the state will cross check the bureau data or how often the bureau data on temporary identification cards is updated.

Democratic Sen. J.D. Ford told lawmakers called the timeline to prove citizenship too narrow of a timeframe.

If signed by the governor, the bill will go into effect July 1.