Destiny Wells: Don’t you dare ask if Indiana can do worse

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Indiana’s voter turnout is low. What can the Secretary of State’s Office do to increase it?

If you pay attention to these things like I do, you’ll already know that Indiana’s not doing so well when it comes to things like voter turnout. In fact, Indiana ranks 46th in the nation in voter participation. I am committed to seeing that Indiana does better.

Back in 2020—one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes—1.6 million registered Hoosiers didn’t vote at all. I know Indiana can do better. And I am ready to help move Indiana forward when it comes to our democracy.

My Republican opponent won’t be upfront with you, so I will: He wants to reduce Indiana’s 11 exceptions for casting a ballot early. In fact, Diego Morales has called for the reduction of those exceptions to four, which would force voters 65 and older to vote in person. This would significantly reduce Hoosiers’ ability to vote, and I’m going to, at the very least, advocate to maintain all 11 reasons to vote early/absentee and expand from there.

My goal is to raise civic participation in our elections. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states and Washington, D.C., had automatic voter registration as of this January. When data was available, states with AVR showed an increase in voter participation. As secretary of state, I will advocate for more accessible voting while still maintaining safe and secure voting. Moving toward AVR should be seriously discussed with voters and the Indiana General Assembly.

It’s the responsibility of all of us to conduct elections in a way that Hoosiers feel heard. There is underused programming within the Secretary of State’s Office that should be more actively engaging youth, like Hoosier Hall Pass. Indiana can make the choice to civically engage the electorate and gather feedback, or we can sit back and watch our democracy crumble.

When Indiana imposed strict voter ID requirements, we required a state-issued photo ID with expiration date for voting. An exception was made to allow IDs issued by public universities, but they also had to include a photo and expiration date. So, students at IU or Purdue or Ball State could, in theory (some photo IDs still lack an expiration date), use their college-issued ID. But students at Hanover, Notre Dame or the University of Indianapolis could not. That doesn’t make sense.

Indiana has also made it confusing for students to know where they can and can’t register, so students often simply choose not to register at their campus. Voting is a habit we develop, and when we discourage young people from participating, we start them out on a lifetime of not participating.

Too often, voters feel like their representatives in government have already been chosen for them, and that discourages their participation. Hoosiers must exercise agency in the democratic process by casting a vote or risk losing democracy all together.

The last thing Indiana needs is a secretary of state who wants to reduce early voting hours, increase bureaucratic red tape at the ballot box, and unilaterally authorize a policy of election denial. Indiana is too good for that. And so are you, Hoosiers.•

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Wells is the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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