The World’s Worst Legislature is coming to the end of this session, and we are beginning to see just how much damage it has inflicted and on whom.
Governor Holcomb has already signed the bill he described as “clear as mud,” depriving trans children of critically-important medical care. (That the measure was harmful and mean-spirited was clear.)
House bills still in the works will further enrich private (overwhelmingly religious) schools at the expense of the public schools that educate some 90% of Indiana children, although the Senate appears to have reconsidered.
And the Republicans who owe their seats to gerrymandering are passing measures to further suppress the vote.
According to the Cost of Voting study conducted by Northern Illinois University in 2020 Indiana’s restrictive voting laws make casting a ballot in the Hoosier state more difficult than most others. Our ranking was 41st in 2020 and if House Bill 1334 passes, it adds hurdles that are sure to get worse.
Sponsored by Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, the bill puts additional restrictions on voting by mail in Indiana, even though we already have laws in place that strictly limit access to a mail-in ballot.
The legislation’s worst section has been billed as an attempt to bring consistency to our voting laws by putting the same voter ID requirements in place for absentee-by-mail voting as those for in-person voting. In reality, this legislation is yet another attempt by the Republican supermajority to put additional hurdles in place before voters can access their ballot.
House Bill 1334 would require anyone using a paper form to apply to vote absentee by mail to include a copy of their Indiana driver’s license or include their voter identification number, which the form will suggest is the last four digits of the voter’s social security number.
That’s the first new hurdle that voters will have to scale because many of us don’t know what voter ID number is on file for us and it’s not always the last four digits of our social. This is particularly true for voters who have been registered at the same address for many years. That’s because Indiana didn’t start requiring voter registration applicants to provide any ID number until the early 2000s, when the statewide voter file was created and hundreds of thousands of voters were assigned a random voter ID number.
The author of the article goes on to explain that she is one of those “hundreds of thousands.” She’s been registered at the same address for over 20 years, but has no idea what her “randomly assigned number” might be. Under the just-passed bill, in order to complete all the information that will now be required on an application for an absentee ballot, she would need to contact the Marion County Election Board and get that information from them, inserting another step into the process.
Because I’m hyper-familiar with Indiana voting laws, I’ll know to make that call but most voters won’t have a clue. Instead, they will write down a number that may not match what’s on file for them, and their absentee ballot application will be rejected. the legislation even anticipates that this problem is going to happen, because it requires a process be in place to “cure” defective applications.
The “cure” requires county voting officials to call the voter, explain the issue, and offer them the necessary information. But as the article accurately notes,
It’s important to remember that because our state puts limits on who can vote by mail, most Hoosiers who cast a mail-in ballot are elderly or disabled. They are least able to jump over new hurdles like providing a copy of a driver’s license or playing guess my Voter ID number with county officials.
That, of course, is the point.
Our Hoosier “Vote Suppression Is Us”legislature isn’t taking any chances. One of the least-understood consequences of gerrymandering is vote suppression– voters who live in districts that are considered “safe” for the party they don’t support are far less likely to cast a ballot. (If they all did, some of those districts wouldn’t be safe.) But just in case grandpa can’t get to the polls in his wheelchair but has the nerve to want to cast a ballot anyway, this legislation will make it much less likely that he will be able do so.
As usual, legislators piously claim that suppression efforts, like Voter ID, are meant to reduce “voter fraud”–a claim that is demonstrably bull****. All credible evidence–including repeated academic studies–confirms that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.
Members of Indiana’s super-majority are simply intent upon retaining the ability to choose their voters, rather than acquiescing to a basic premise of democracy– the right of voters to choose their representatives.