INDIANAPOLIS – A House election committee on Monday voted 9-4 to pass a bill that would make it harder for Libertarians to get on the ballot for governor and the U.S. Senate.
A Senate committee also heard testimony on two other election bills that would limit school operations when used as a polling location and change the deadline a mail-in ballot must be received to be counted.
Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, offered House Bill 1134, which was amended significantly. What remained would require Libertarians to collect signatures of registered voters to run for governor or U.S. Senate.
Under current law, Libertarians nominate those offices in a primary convention and are not required to gather signatures required of Republicans and Democrats as part of the primary ballot process.
Manning's bill would still allow Libertarians to nominate governor and U.S. Senate candidates via convention but would then also require the nominee to meet the signature requirement, which is 500 registered voters for each of the state's nine congressional districts.
He said the proposed legislation is merely meant to align the processes.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said a cynical person would see it as a bill to punish Libertarians because they did well in the last gubernatorial election, and some believe they siphon votes from Republicans.
“Don't be so cynical,” Manning responded.
Libertarians still wouldn't be considered a major party under the bill, he said.
Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, said the bill adds more requirements on Libertarians without giving them any new powers or advantages.
No one from the Indiana Libertarian Party testified on the bill, which now moves to the full House.
Over in the Senate, the election panel heard several bills that could be voted on next week.
Senate Bill 260 has one section that would prohibit schools from having on-site instruction if the school is being used as a polling location.
Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, said there are security concerns to having thousands of members of the public in schools on an Election Day. This is a middle ground instead of not allowing schools to be used. The buildings are needed because they are handicapped accessible and have good internet connectivity.
He said schools could have a teacher development day or an e-learning day – just not on-site instruction.
Terry Spradlin – executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association – opposed the section of the bill, saying some schools may choose to close but others can safely separate the polling location from students using locked doors.
“This is an overreach removing local control and flexibility,” he said.
Senate Bill 398 would extend the deadline by which mail-in absentee ballots must be received by election officials from noon to 6 p.m. on Election Day. But it applies to only about 70 counties that have electronic poll books. The other counties would retain the noon deadline.
Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana said having two different deadlines for counties creates confusion for voters and should be the same – 6 p.m. at the earliest.