Another perspective: Indiana misses mark on election priorities

Tribune-Star (Terre Haute)

Indiana’s secretary of state, Holli Sullivan, is again touting the state’s post-election auditing system, this time as officials begin examining results of the May primary.

It’s good that Indiana shows concern for the vote-counting process. Citizens should expect that to be standard practice in the exercise of good government.

It’s unsettling, however, that Sullivan is particularly enamored with post-election auditing in wake of former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud during the 2020 election. Trump’s “Big Lie” has created significant strain on the foundations of American democracy. Rather than fueling concerns that state elections “might” be problematic, elected officials such as Sullivan would be wise to flex their vocal chords by repeating the truthful refrain that Indiana’s election system has no vote-counting problems, nor has there been any evidence of such in the past.

This does not suggest hat there are no problems on Indiana’s electoral landscape that need aggressive attention. There are. Too few people bother to vote. Weak voter participation does not serve democracy well. The state ranks among the worst in voter turnout nationwide and shows no particular interest in taking steps to make voting easier and more accessible to greater numbers of people.

Sullivan, of course, is a member of Trump’s Republican Party. A sizable segment of Republicans subscribe to the former president’s claim that the last election was stolen from him. Meanwhile, Republican state legislators across the country have been passing laws in recent months to make voting far more difficult in an effort to suppress voter turnout in the future. They claim they do it on behalf of restoring integrity and confidence in the voting process. Sound familiar?

Indiana can’t do much more to lock down voter access. The state has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. Voter registration ends a month before every election. Election Day voting is only open for 12 hours, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Absentee voting is tightly controlled and requires a “qualified” excuse. And while early voting is offered, locations and times are limited.

Several states, including some controlled by Republicans, offer election systems that are far more voter-friendly. Voting by mail has been shown to be safe and secure in those areas. It has in Indiana as well. In the 2020 primary election, during the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state relaxed its absentee voting procedures and conducted a highly successful election with no problems. Yet it refused to repeat that process in the general election.

Sullivan can tout the state’s balloting audits all she wants to underscore that Indiana conducts safe and secure elections. Fact is, every other state has safe and secure elections as well. And a number of those also do much more to assure greater voter access and participation than Indiana does. This state, despite its vote audits, falls far short in encouraging and facilitating the essential practice of offering a voter-friendly election process.