Proposed voting law change faces criticism

By TOM DAVIES
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — One of Indiana’s most prominent corporations is criticizing an Indiana proposal that opponents maintain will make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to submit identification numbers with their ballot applications.

The bill’s Republican sponsors say it is aimed at preventing voter fraud by having similar voter ID requirements for mail voting as the state has for in-person voting at polling sites.

Stephen Fry, Eli Lilly and Co.’s senior vice president for human resources and diversity, told a legislative committee Tuesday that the company believed the bill wasn’t needed and that state officials acted correctly to allow no-excuse mail-in voting for the spring 2020 primary because of COVID-19 concerns. The Indiana bill is among a wave of GOP-backed election proposals that were introduced in states around the country after former President Donald Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat.

“It serves only to confer acceptance of the widespread falsehood that there is something to be questioned about the outcome of last year’s election,” Fry said. “This effort and others like it, albeit using different language, only serve to perpetuate the narrative that the 2020 election outcome was flawed or compromised in some way.”

The proposal would require a voter to submit their 10-digit Indiana driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their mail-in ballot application. Bill opponents counter that will lead to many applications being rejected because voters won't know which number is on file with their county election office and some older voter registration records include no such numbers.

The bill would also prohibit the state election commission from changing an election date or expanding mail-in voting options as it did by delaying the 2020 primary by a month with the support of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana GOP and Democratic state party leaders.

The public stance of Indianapolis-based Lilly, a pharmaceutical company with some 12,000 employees in the state, against the proposal comes as major corporations have faced pressure to denounce Republican efforts to tighten voting laws in Georgia, Texas and other states.

Fry spoke after Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita testified in support of the bill, calling it commonsense changes that ensure the verification of voter identities and the authority of the Legislature over when elections are conducted.

“For many Americans, as a result, the 2020 election has shaken their confidence, including thousands of Hoosiers,” Rokita said. “It has created profound unease, if not outright distrust, about the results.”

Republicans pushed the bill through the state Senate in February. The House elections committee could vote Thursday on whether to advance it to the full House.

Some Democratic elections officials said they worried about local election workers having enough time for the additional responsibility of checking ID numbers on mail-in ballot applications and notifying voters about problems ahead of voting deadlines.

Legislative Republicans have blocked efforts by Democrats to ease voting laws, such as the state’s mail-in voting limits that now allow people to vote by mail only if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older or being absent from their home counties on Election Day.

Barbara Tully, the president of the group Indiana Vote By Mail, called Rokita’s comments “propaganda” and said she didn’t believe the Legislature was doing anything to improve the state’s 42nd ranking in voter turnout.

“This General Assembly is intent on grinding Indiana voters into a state of apathy about our elections so that fewer voters actually participate,” Tully said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Erin Houchin of Salem said Indiana’s lack of an identification requirement for mail-in ballots was a hole in its election security.

“It’s our responsibility and duty to make sure, through these types of processes, that each person only has one vote,” Houchin said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re just trying to bring it to one person, one vote, no matter how you vote.”




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