Indiana House backs bill tightening mail-in voting rules

The Indiana House approved along party lines Monday a Republican-backed proposal that would require voters who request mail-in ballots to swear under possible penalty of perjury that they won’t be able to vote in person at any time during the 28 days before Election Day.

House members voted 66-28 in favor of the bill that supporters maintain is aimed at encouraging people to cast ballots in person during Indiana’s early voting period. Democrats and voting rights activists argue it would discourage people from selecting their most convenient way of voting, citing hours-long lines at early voting sites in Indianapolis during the 2020 election.

The proposal now goes to the Republican-dominated state Senate for consideration and comes as some GOP-controlled states have restricted voting by mail and made other changes such as limiting when voters can cast ballots.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Tim Wesco of Osceola defended the proposal as an updating of the state’s mail-in ballot law to reflect the greater availability of early in-person voting over the past couple decades.

“This bill encourages people to vote in person with a state ID as much as possible by taking advantage of the 28-day early voting period,” Wesco said.

Indiana’s current mail-in voting limits allow people to vote by mail only if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older, confined to their homes, scheduled to work throughout the 12 hours Election Day polling sites are open or being absent from their home counties on Election Day.

The new proposal would extend those limitations to the state’s early voting period, with the request form requiring voters to swear they meet the requirements and acknowledge that “perjury is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2-1/2 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.”

Wesco downplayed concerns over the perjury penalty during a committee hearing, calling the mail-in voter request “an honor system.”

Democrats argued that Indiana’s 92 counties vary widely on what evening or weekend hours are available for early voting and how many sites are open. They said the new limitations would wrongly put the responsibility on voters to know weeks ahead of time what their work and family schedules are and would discourage voter participation.

“For so many reasons, our hard-working families might not be able to say definitively they can’t show up,” Democratic Rep. Carey Hamilton of Indianapolis said. “They’re not willing to potentially perjure themselves.”

Election officials and many political campaigns encouraged mail-in voting in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns.

That pushed mail-in balloting to nearly 600,000, along with some 1.3 million in-person early votes cast, according to the state election division. Mail-in voting jumped about 3-1/2 times from 150,000 ballots in 2016, when almost 1 million people cast early in-person votes.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston disputed the argument that the proposed changes would discourage voting and cited the extended voting hours available in his district in Hamilton County, the state’s most affluent county just north of Indianapolis.

“I was much more sympathetic of life getting in the way when it was Election Day,” Huston said. “I’m a little less sympathetic of life getting in the way when its election month and that’s what it is.”

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9 thoughts on “Indiana House backs bill tightening mail-in voting rules

  1. Maybe Huston should try to come observe how elections it are handled in Marion County.

    Hamilton County had five early voting locations for 350,000 people.

    Marion County had seven for 980,000 people because the Marion county GOP has fought to keep the numbers low since 2008.

    This law should be amended to mandate a certain number of early voting locations proportional to the population… or Indiana Democrats should turn the tables and make sure the rest of Indiana votes the way Marion County does.

  2. Election month is definitely a better way to go. I still had to stand in a long line, but 30 minutes to vote was reasonable and better than everyone doing it on a single day. If Marion County needs more voting locations, what’s stopping them from having more? I’m also not opposed to online voting at Indiana.gov, but I know that will never happen and I understand why. Mail in voting is just a bad way to go other than the current rules that limit it to certain people. There are just way too many ways to cheat that system. I certainly don’t have the answers to making elections fair, accessible and safe, but keep working on it. It’s sad that both parties want it a certain way that they think benefits their chances of winning so it would be nice if the people deciding how we are to vote didn’t have an interest in the outcome.

    1. Stop the both parties nonsense. Democrats want everyone to be able to vote. Meanwhile, Republicans want to restrict the vote. Those aren’t “equally bad”.

      If you have evidence of mail-in voting fraud, provide it. The cases down at the Villages in Florida where people tried to vote Trump in two states were all caught. A reminder that in Indiana when people think voter fraud, they think of Republican Charlie White.

      What’s stopping Marion County is that both parties have to agree and Republicans have withheld that approval since 2008, when Obama won. To the Marion County GOP, everyone should have to go down to the City County Building to vote early. The current number of sites is due to a lawsuit and resulting settlement that Republicans then sued (unsuccessfully) to stop.

      If Rep. Huston is saying that how Hamilton County does it is great, then put it in state law that counties have to have vote centers, 1 for every 70,000 voters just like Hamilton County. The Indiana Legislature loves to tell cities and counties how to do things, if voting is so important, why would they let cities and counties screw it up?

      And if you want to get rid of mail-in voting, OK. Then why not make Election Day a holiday? If that’s too much, how about extending the hours the polls are open until 8 or 9pm?

      If Republicans won’t budge on any of that, then it’s time for Democrats to play hardball. Do to the rest of Indiana what the Marion County GOP does to Indianapolis. Make voters in the other 91 counties go down to the county courthouse to vote during Election Month.

    2. “There are just way too many ways to cheat that system”
      “It’s sad that both parties want it a certain way that they think benefits their chances of winning”

      Stop kidding yourself Jeff, everybody can see what the GOP is doing, and it’s not trying to get more people to vote.

    3. Nate and Joe, you guys really think that Democrats are only looking out for voting rights and Republicans are evil cheaters trying to block people from voting? Stop with both parties’ nonsense? So what Democrats are trying to do would not benefit them in any way and they’re only looking out for the people. You guys are showing your partisan hypocrisy. At least this Independent can see that the fox is guarding the hen house and the fox is both parties and whoever is in charge will benefit their party over the public. Politics is all about winning and fairness is not a trait I would apply to either party! That is why we really need impartial election committees. Maybe made up of nonpolitical people with 50% of either side represented. Meaning they’re not currently employed in politics. I’d be happy logging in to an Indiana.gov account and do my voting that way! Offering multiple, convenient ways to vote that is both safe and secure would be nice. All I was saying was that extending voting to a month is a good start. Now come up with other ways to get it done so everyone can vote in whatever manner is best for them. Joe, I have no proof of anything, but wasn’t questioning mail-in voting fraud. It doesn’t seem like a secure way to do mass voting because there’s too many humans with vested interest in the outcome involved in the transaction.

    4. I definitely think Republicans are trying to stop people from voting. The evidence is clear as day.

      I mean, let’s pretend that Donald Trump didn’t allege fraud in 2016 before the election even started. And let’s pretend, after he won, he didn’t assemble a committee to look into his fraud allegations …that quietly disbanded after finding no fraud. Even though all that did in fact happen.

      So 2020 comes along. Trump says out loud that he’s fighting expanded voting because if he agreed to it “no Republicans would ever win an election again”. Trump again alleges fraud before the election even takes place.

      Results come in. Trump loses by a close amount, just about the same close amount he won by in 2016. Republicans demand recounts. They counted Georgia three times, no changes. The GOP brought in an outside firm to recount Arizona and found … more votes for Biden.

      Republicans file lawsuits full of allegations. They get laughed out of every court. Heck, the lawyers get in trouble for the allegations being … let’s just call them nonsense.

      Then Trump throws a big rally and encourages people to rush the Capitol and all heck breaks loose.

      Still, despite all this, Republicans run around and scream and lie about fraud, then complain they have to change the laws because people don’t believe elections are secure or fair any more. The only reason that anyone believes elections aren’t secure or fair … is because Republicans falsely allege fraud. Why anyone still believes them despite their record is beyond me.

      If it were up to me, I’d throw out the machines and do it all via paper ballots. It’s crazy to spend that much money on machines that quickly age and get used twice a year when we can do the same thing via paper. I’d also make Election Day a holiday and/or mandate the number and location of early voting sites to ensure no one waits in lines.

      I’d mandate voter ID with a clear alternate process for those folks who’d rather not have government identification. If you want to skip voter ID, your only option for voting is to do so in your precinct on Election Day.

      I’d make both fraudulently voting and interfering with someone else’s right to vote, or intimidating someone in an attempt to dissuade them from voting, a felony.

    5. See, to me? These men should be charged with felonies, if convicted, barred from the vote. This should be disqualifying behavior for political candidates in the USA.

      Any poll workers who take their advice? Same thing. You’re going to mail and you will never vote again.

      ====

      Ryan Kelley, a Republican candidate for governor, appeared alongside Mike Detmer, also a Republican who is running for the state senate in Livingston County over the weekend. The candidates were meeting with prospective poll workers.

      “If you see something you don’t like happening with the machines, and you see something going on, unplug it from the wall,” Kelley said.

      “The ideal thing is to do this peaceful, that’s ideal, but the American people at some point in time, if we can’t change the tide, need to be prepared to lock and load,” he said. “So, if you ask what we can do, show up armed.”

      https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/republican-candidates-urge-michigan-poll-workers-to-bring-guns-unplug-machines-if-they-suspect-voter-fraud

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