Indiana Voting Reform as a National Model
Contact: AJ Freeney-Ruiz
Indiana has improved its electoral process more in the last year than in any other since the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We are now approaching our first set of elections combining changes mandated by the federal government's Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and our own measures to ensure fair and accurate elections. Indiana is leading the nation in implementing these improvements, including the purchase of new voting equipment, a state-of-the-art voter file linking counties and relevant state agencies together in real-time, and upgrading polling sites to allow better access for disabled Hoosiers.
In Indiana, local office holders pick the voting equipment to be used in their county. Though every county complied with federal law and purchased their voting machines on time, some have recently experienced problems with their vendors. Even though the concerns raised are largely contract issues between counties and their respective vendors, I have begun to conduct hearings to hold these vendors accountable, where appropriate, on behalf of voters and taxpayers. As Indiana's Chief Election Officer, I take seriously my duty to intervene on behalf of Hoosiers to protect our model electoral process.
Some of the most significant election improvements result from our efforts to secure our electoral process and curb the possibility of future abuses similar to those seen in Lake, Madison and other counties in past election cycles. Last year, our General Assembly passed sweeping changes securing our right to vote by improving our absentee ballot process and establishing the need to show Photo ID when we vote in person.
Indiana's Voter ID law expects Hoosiers to show state or federally-issued photo identification when voting in-person to avoid identity theft at the polls. You see, hardly ever discussed is a different kind of disenfranchisement shown to occur around the country. It happens when honest votes are diluted by the dishonesty of political operatives casting more than one ballot or ballots in the names of others.
Seeking to block this common sense, no-cost way to avoid fraud at the polls, state Democrats and others sued to block the new law. Over Easter weekend, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker strongly affirmed Indiana's photo ID law by granting summary judgment for the State.
Despite the contentions made by a small group of plaintiffs, nobody's right to vote is lost as a result of this law. The Court, in its thorough 127-page decision, found the law constitutional and specifically noted that not a single person could be produced who would be unable to vote or be unduly burdened by the requirement. The opinion also states that the law is nothing like a poll tax, that there are very reasonable voting alternatives available to Hoosiers, and that much of the evidence upon which the state Democrats made their case was "utterly incredible and unreliable."
Because I care deeply about Indiana's electoral process, I wholeheartedly support the Voter ID law as a much needed layer of integrity in our elections and as a confidence booster for the voter. The Voter ID law is not an effort to disenfranchise anyone. Sharing my compassion for considering the rights of those without photo ID, the General Assembly now requires the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to provide one, free of charge, to all Hoosiers who need it. We've also created a variety of fail-safes and backups that allow voters who forget or do not have an ID on Election Day to still cast a ballot and have it counted within ten days of the Election.
The secret to Indiana's success to date has been the generally bipartisan (or even nonpartisan) cooperation in implementing election reforms. For example, our statewide effort to inform Hoosier voters of the new ID requirement is the direct result of a plan developed in part by the bipartisan Vote with ID Task Force I assembled. With so many improvements to your electoral process on the horizon for the first time in decades, it is important to know where Indiana stands when compared to the other states. Indiana's election reforms are a model for the rest of the country, and my office will continue to protect and ensure your right to vote - and have your vote count - on Election Day.