One of the (multiple) controversies of the last election cycle concerned efforts in several states to make voting more difficult. Republicans in those states–perhaps most notably Florida–cut back early voting times, required government-issued IDs, “purged” voter rolls of thousands of eligible, properly registered voters, and took other measures designed to limit voting by poor and minority citizens, on the not-unreasonable assumption that most of those votes would go to Democrats.
Here in Indianapolis, the lone Republican member of the Marion County Election Board repeatedly blocked the efforts of Beth White, the County Clerk, to open satellite voting locations. The sites had been extremely popular in earlier elections; they made early voting much more convenient for people who work long hours or have difficulty getting downtown to cast a vote at the Clerk’s office. There was no legitimate reason to block satellite voting; the extra money had been raised from private sources.
Now, with a super-majority in the Indiana General Assembly and fewer impediments to wholly partisan measures, we are seeing additional efforts to limit voting. Two amendments are pending in the Indiana House today to SB 388. That bill was heard in committee last week. These amendments, sponsored by Rep. Thompson, would reduce in-person absentee voting at the clerk’s office from the current legal requirement of 29 days.
Amendment 1 reduces early voting down to ONLY 15 DAYS. Amendment 2 reduces early voting down to ONLY 10 DAYS.
Tellingly, neither amendment has been heard in committee or has been reviewed by election officials–at least publicly. Passage of either amendment would greatly increase the numbers who turn out on Election Day; we could see long lines of the sort that discouraged an estimated 200,000+ voters in Florida last November. It would also make voting much more difficult for those who need to vote absentee in-person.
There is no policy justification for this proposal. Had there been, it would have been offered in committee and subjected to public discussion and debate. This is simply an effort to tilt the playing field, an effort to sneak in under the radar with a change in the rules that is intended to suppress Democratic votes.
This sort of behavior simply adds to the growing public disgust with government at all levels.
I don’t know how, but We the People need to figure out a way to send a message to our legislators, both here in Indiana and in Washington: we didn’t elect you to play partisan power games. We didn’t elect you to obstruct the operation of government, to refuse to confirm qualified nominees because the other guys nominated them, or to place the interests of your donors above the common good. We didn’t elect you so that you can rig the system to improve your chances of holding on to your job.
Evidently, Sen. Thompson and his cohorts would prefer we dispense with this democratic nonsense and not really elect our legislators at all–they’d undoubtedly prefer the system used in autocratic countries, where 99% of the “vote” turns out to ratify the election of a single nominee.