30 Laws in 30 Days: More opportunities to register to vote at the BMV

By Abrahm Hurt

Editor’s note: This is the 16th in a series of stories about new laws that are taking effect, most of them on July 1.

INDIANAPOLIS — Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute,­ argues Indiana has a problem with voter turnout.

For the 2014 midterm election, Indiana had the lowest voter turnout or among the lowest voter turnout in the nation depending on how you look at the numbers.

“I think that’s atrocious,” Kersey said.

While turnout for the 2016 General Election was at 58 percent according to numbers from the Indiana Election Division, Kersey still thinks that number can be increased.

In hopes of improving voter turnout and making voter registration more accessible, Kersey authored House Enrolled Act 1178. Beginning in 2018, the new law allows license branch employees to ask people making any type of transaction at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles if they would like to register to vote.

Under current Indiana law, license branches can offer a voter registration application whenever someone applies for a driver’s license, permit or identification card. Sarah Bonick, director of internal communications at the Indiana BMV, said those transactions only occur in person every six to 12 years.

“House Enrolled Act 1178 will allow the BMV to provide applications to those who want them much more frequently,” Bonick said. “The BMV is happy to assist in such an endeavor.”

If BMV customers decide to register to vote, the branch worker can provide them with information and the proper forms.

Voters gathered outside the Grace United Methodist Church, a polling place in Franklin in 2014. Photo by Jesse Wilson, TheStatehouseFile.com

“Each year I talk to people who come up to me and say, ‘Well, I would have like to have voted for you, but I went to the place to vote, and they told me I wasn’t registered to vote. How do I register to vote?’” Kersey said.

For Kersey, this law is simply a starting point. His goal is to get as many people as possible to register to vote.

“We should be actively talking about being able to register to vote on Election Day and voting by mail and having automatic voter registration,” he said. 

Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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