The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 07, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

Lawmakers split on election bill

GOP contends extra security needed to regain trust

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Republicans pushing an election security bill stoked fears of fraud Tuesday during a hearing on a move to tighten mail-in ballots.

Senate Bill 353 also would prohibit the governor or bipartisan Indiana Election Commission from changing the time, manner or place of an election in the future. The commission – at the urging of Gov. Eric Holcomb – last year delayed the primary about one month due to the pandemic.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said ballot-harvesting and last-minute rule changes created unease and distrust about the results of the 2020 election. He said ballot-harvesting is when a third party collects completed ballots and delivers them to election officials.

“That doesn't have to be,” he said.

Democrats pushed back – noting only isolated instances of voter fraud that were caught by the safeguards already in place.

Rokita said, “whether it's a million cases of voter fraud or 100, it destroys people's confidence in the system.”

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, also said a constituent of hers found that someone else had requested a mail-in ballot under her name.

That is why she and fellow Republicans want to add an identity verification check to the application for a mail-in ballot. She said it is the same as having to provide voter identification at the polls.

A voter will be required to input either the last four digits of their Social Security number or their full driver's license number. If the numbers don't match, the request will be denied. It is similar to a provision just passed in Georgia.

A committee vote on the bill is expected Thursday.

Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana said the bill is further insinuation of election irregularities in 2020 with no proof.

“What you are doing here is an overreach,” she said.

Several people testified that someone who registered 20 years ago might not remember which number is on file. If they pick the wrong one, the request for a mail-in ballot will be rejected. And there is currently no process in law to “cure” such a denial.

Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, said that language is in another bill that has not been finalized.

Stephen Fry, a human resources executive with Eli Lilly and Co., one of the state's largest employers, said the company opposes the bill.

Fry said Indiana's high voter turnout last year should be celebrated.

“It is a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Fry also noted the bill furthers widespread falsehood that there is something to be questioned about 2020's election outcome.

“These false narratives are damaging to our country,” he said.

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