Lawmakers advance bill to prevent governor, commission from election changes

The Indiana Senate Elections Committee on Monday approved a bill that would prevent the Indiana Election Commission or the governor from changing the date, time and place of an election.

Senate Bill 353, authored by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, initially would have required proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in the state. But the committee stripped that language from the legislation during Monday’s hearing and replaced it with language that would give only the Indiana General Assembly the authority to change the date of an election.

“That role, I believe, is exclusively, constitutionally a responsibility of the Legislature,” Houchin said. “So the language in the bill is just to make it clear that the time, manner and place of the election can only be changed by the General Assembly.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order in March that postponed the date of Indiana’s primary election from May 5 to June 2 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He announced the postponement with the support of Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody.

Houchin said if the Legislature wasn’t in session and the election date needed to be changed, there would be a way for the General Assembly to convene.

Currently, only the governor can call for a special session of the General Assembly, but that could change after this year. For example, House Bill 1123 would create a new “emergency session” that could be called for by the Legislative Council during a statewide emergency. The House passed the bill 69-27 last week.

“In a true emergency, if something needs to be changed, my intention would be that we’d have to trigger a special session to address those functions,” Houchin said.

Also, before the primary, the Indiana Election Commission voted to expand the option to cast a ballot by mail to all voters. Under current law, Indiana voters are required to provide a reason they want to vote absentee, such as being required to work the entire 12 hours that polls are open or having a disability.

The amended bill would prevent the Indiana Election Commission from increasing or expanding absentee vote by mail options in the future. The commission did not expand vote-by-mail options before the general election in November.

The amended bill would also require anyone requesting an absentee ballot to provide their driver’s license number or last four digits of their social security number.

The committee approved the bill 7-2, with the two Democratic committee members voting against it.

Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, said he’d like to see the state expand the option to vote by mail to all registered voters, so communities don’t deal with long lines at the polls in the future. In Indianapolis last year, voters waited for hours to cast ballots at multiple polling locations.

“Regardless of someone’s political affiliation, I think it’s completely wrong for an American citizen to wait in line three to five hours to cast a vote,” Qaddoura said.

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12 thoughts on “Lawmakers advance bill to prevent governor, commission from election changes

  1. What a great legislative body we have. Let’s strip power from the Governor, from cabinet posts, from agencies, from localities, from Indianapolis, the voters, conservationists, you name it. And forget about listening to experts or business or academia or the voters: the legislature knows best. The Republicans want to cement one party rule where the special interests of the legislators predominate. What’s next? Self-appointed committees to re-elect ‘conservative’ Republicans, with the input only of each other?

  2. Oh great! More Republican shenanigans to dictate how people live. Before long these full-time rural, part-time legislature members, and no-time thinking, inDUHviduals are going to be dictating who is in the Indy500 and what plays Spartzballs teams can run.
    This is all about the mentally insecure trying to control what everyone else does, feels, sees, believes, and can do.

  3. Vote by mail greatly reduces the confidence that the electorate has in the legitimacy of the election. This is fueled by charges of cheating under this system by both sides. One legal voter gets one vote. Measures to secure this are welcome relief.

    1. Vote by mail is used in several states with no problems.

      If you want to improve confidence in the election, sue Fox News and its hosts out of business for spreading The Big Lie. We can only hope the voting companies with suits pending against them and their ilk are successful.

    2. The lack of confidence was fueled by unfounded charges of election impropriety. We need to make voting more accessible – especially during a pandemic – regardless of what some might “believe”. I’m disappointed in Sen Houchin.

  4. Vote by mail is reliable as evidenced by other states that exclusively vote by mail to INCLUDE UTAH. Added bonus, will save the state >$7M in expenses associated with in person voting.

  5. We have a system for mail in voting. It’s called an absentee ballot. It has a proven and reliable track record. This needs to be the method used going forward as in the past. Mail in voting is easily flawed and fraught with the ability to abuse.

    1. Typically, absentee ballots refer to ballots that are requested and then mailed when a person can’t vote in person. Mail-in ballots refer to ballots in the context of policies that allow all people to vote by mail. Opportunity for abuse in ‘mail in’ should be fairly obvious.

    2. It seems to me the opportunity for fraud is the same both ways, as are the precautions.

      You have to register to vote both ways. You have to give your signature in both cases. In both cases, the signatures on the ballot has to match what’s on the voter registration or the vote isn’t counted.

      Seems to me that if you want to get rid of mail-in voting, you should also get rid of absentee voting.

      https://ballotpedia.org/Processing,_counting,_and_challenging_absentee/mail-in_ballots_in_Georgia,_2020

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