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Republican bill would restrict absentee voting in Indiana

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 26, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — A GOP bill that will get a vote in the Indiana House of Representatives is just one of several pieces of legislation targeting absentee voting in the state.

House Bill 1116 was approved Tuesday by a House committee and would make people swear under possible penalty of perjury that they would not be able to vote in person in the 28 days before Election Day.

The bill's author, Rep. Tim Wesco, R-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.

“I believe the best policy is to encourage people to vote in person, whether on Election Day or in-person early as much as possible,” Wesco said during testimony, according to the Associated Press.

Democrats and voting rights activists cited hourslong lines at early voting sites in Indianapolis during the 2020 election and argued the change would discourage people from choosing the voting method that is most convenient to them under the penalty of perjury.

The bill advanced passed 12-7 along party lines in the House Ways and Means Committee and will go to the full House for consideration.

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Here is a look at other bills dealing with absentee voting in Indiana.

House Bill 1173: Various election matters

  • Author: Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola. Co-author: Rep. Harold Slager, R-Brookston.
  • What it says: A person would be required to provided either their Indiana driver’s license or the first four digits of their Social Security number before they can electronically receive an absentee ballot. The bill says a person would be allowed to vote absentee if they are unable to participate in early in-person absentee voting or on Election Day. It would require the secretary of state to determine the number of elections that would be subject to post-election audit.
  • Current status: Referred to Ways and Means

House Bill 1220: Absentee voting

  • Author: Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola
  • What it says: The bill would require all absentee ballot applications sent by an entity other than the county clerk’s office to have a disclaimer saying the application was sent unsolicited and to list the organization responsible for sending the application. An “agency of the state or a political subdivision” would be not allowed to provide someone with an application for an absentee ballot unless the person requested it. An absentee ballot application would be required to include the last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number and one of either the applicant’s Indiana driver’s license number, their Indiana identification card for non-drivers or the unique identifying number assigned to the applicant’s voter registration card in the computerized list. A county election board would be required to deny an absentee ballot application if it cannot match at least one of the numbers with the applicant’s voter registration record. A person would be allowed to vote absentee if they cannot participate in early in-person absentee voting or on Election Day.
  • Current status: First reading, referred to Committee on Elections and Apportionment

House Bill 1317: Various election law matters

  • Author: Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute. Co-author: Rep. Zach Payne, R-Jeffersonville.
  • What it says: The bill would prohibit the Indiana Election Commission from instituting, increase or expanding vote-by-mail or absentee vote-by-mail, and from changing the time, place or manner of holding an election. It would prohibit a person from providing an absentee ballot application with the driver’s license or last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number already printed on the form. An applicant would be required to include their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. The bill would prohibit the governor from changing the time, place or manner of holding an election during a declared disaster emergency. A “risk-limiting audit” would be conducted after each election before the results are certified.
  • Current status: First reading, referred to the Committee on Education

Senate Bill 71: Absentee voting for the elderly and disabled

  • Author: Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis
  • What it says: The bill would allow elderly voters or voters with disabilities to apply for permanent absentee voter status. Absentee ballots would be automatically sent to voters who have permanent absentee voter status.
  • Current status: First reading, referred to Committee on Elections

Senate Bill 289: Election computer equipment audit

  • Author: Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem
  • What is says: The bill would prohibit the Indiana Election Commission from instituting, increasing or expanding vote-by-mail or absentee vote-by-mail, and changing the time, manner or place of holding an election. It would prohibit a person from providing an absentee ballot application to a person with the person’s driver’s license number, identification card number, unique identifying number assigned to the voter’s registration record, or the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number already printed on the form. The bill would require someone applying for an absentee ballot to include their driver’s license number and the last four digits of their Social Security number. The Indiana Secretary of State would be required to conduct an audit of all computer equipment used during each general election, beginning with the 2022 election. It would also prohibit the governor from changing the time, place or manner of holding an election during a declared disaster emergency.
  • Current status: First reading, referred to Committee on Elections

WRTV producer Ray Steele contributed to this report.