With the approval of a state House committee Thursday morning, an Indiana bill adding new ID requirements to the mail voting process is heading to the state House floor.
Several other controversial parts of the legislation, known as SB 353, were stripped out as the bill made its way through the legislative process. But what remains is a requirement that those using an online portal to request a mail ballot — an application option that was set up for the pandemic — provide either their driver’s license ID number or the last four digits of their social security number. The state Senate has already approved an earlier version of the legislation with those mandates, though the bill has since been subject to other changes.
Voting rights advocates are concerned about how that mandate will make the mail voting process more cumbersome for Hoosiers. In particular, they’re concerned about Indiana voters who have a voter ID number on their file — a relic from a registration digitization effort in the state several years ago — that won’t match the number being asked for under the legislation.
“It’s just another opportunity for voters to get tripped up,” said Julia Vaughn, the Indiana policy director for the voting rights group Common Cause. Republican lawmakers say they’re working on separate legislation that will create a process for voters whose mail ballot applications are rejected because of the requirement to address that issue, according to the Indy Star.
Historically, Indiana has ranked among the worst states in the country for voter turnout, and even the record turnout it saw in 2020 didn’t improve its standing compared to the rest of the country.
Earlier versions of the legislation had even more aggressive provisions to restrict voter access. At one point, lawmakers were considering demanding that voters provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote — a requirement that has been blocked in court challenges when other states sought to impose it.
Up until Thursday morning, the legislation would have also stripped the governor and the elections commission of their authority to make changes to mail voting rules or other election regulations without the legislature’s approval. Those provisions were aimed at how officials delayed the state’s May primary last year, and made other tweaks to election policies, because of the pandemic. Those sections of the bill were removed during the House committee hearing Thursday.
Another bill that’s moving through the legislature will make voting easier in the state. Currently, Indiana requires that mail ballots be received by noon on Election Day, even though in person polling locations stay open for several more hours. The bill — which has been approved by both chambers but needs to go into a conference committee — would make that deadline 6 p.m.