Voting bills fail to address real problem in Indiana: Lack of voters

Aim Media Indiana

Indiana has a voting problem, but it’s not the problem that the state’s Republican supermajority are interested in addressing.

As The Republic’s Andy East reported a few days back, lawmakers want to make it harder for people to vote absentee by mail. As East reported, House Bill 1334 “would require voters who request a paper application for an absentee-by-mail ballot to provide the last four digits of the Social Security number, as well as their 10-digit driver’s license number, state ID number or voter ID number. Alternatively, applicants could instead submit a photocopy of any ID that meets state voter ID requirements.”

Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, voted for the bill as it passed the House along with the three men representing Jackson County, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, Rep. Dave Hall, R-Norman, and Rep. Chris May, R-Bedford.

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, voted on it as it advanced in the Senate, and Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, is a sponsor of the measure.

Good government groups oppose the bill for many good reasons, but let’s call this what it is. This bill is a byproduct of election denialism that reached a fever pitch after former President Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters embraced his lie that the election had been stolen from him amid rampant voter fraud.

Problem is, this bill could actually deprive citizens of their right to vote. As Julia Vaughn wrote in a column published in The Republic on Wednesday, the state didn’t begin using Social Security numbers until the early 2000s. So a voter who has lived at the same address for the past 20 years would instead have a randomly assigned voter number.

This bill is a recipe for confusion when it comes time for county elections officials to count and verify absentee ballots on Election Night. Furthermore, there are people in this state — particularly elderly people and those of limited means — who lack a government-issued ID card. Should that deprive them the right to vote?

As we mentioned at the outset, Indiana does indeed have a voting problem. That problem is, too few people vote. It’s a well-chronicled problem with well-documented solutions. For whatever reasons, our Indiana lawmakers are not advancing bills that would encourage voting and make it easier.

Indiana consistently ranks among the bottom 10 states in the nation in voter turnout. In the 2020 general election, turnout in Indiana was 60.6%, far behind the national average of 66.8%. Hoosiers’ voting rate in that election was 46th out of the 50 states.

The most recent Indiana Civic Health Index found states that consistently were in the top 10 for turnout did a few things Indiana doesn’t.

Among other things, those states have automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, unrestricted absentee voting, longer polling hours on Election Day and they permit unrestricted mail-in voting.

Those states have a wider array of voting options, and therefore greater voter turnout, because their legislatures introduced measures making it so, and those bills became law.

We could do that in Indiana, but our leaders do not appear interested in doing anything that would make it easier for more people to be able to vote.