Senate voting bill moves out of committee as other states address questions about future elections

By Alexa Shrake

TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—The House Elections and Apportionment Committee passed Senate Bill 353 Thursday after amending the bill to remove a provision that would limit the authority to change the “time, place or manner of holding an election’’—including the loosening of requirements for absentee voting—to the General Assembly. 

Early voting during the 2020 election at the Johnson County courthouse. Photo by Isaac Gleitz, TheStatehouseFile.com

The amendment deletes the language that prohibits a governor from rescheduling or expanding absentee voting in an election. In 2020, Gov. Eric Holcomb delayed the primary election from May until June and loosened restrictions on absentee voting as Indiana coped with the outbreak of COVID-19. 

The bill is developing at the same time as fallout from a similar bill in Georgia and as Kentucky’s governor signs a bill that will expand voting. 

Georgia’s election bill has caused businesses like Coca-Cola and JPMorgan Chase to release statements against the bill and Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta. While the bills have significant differences—for example, Indiana’s does not include the provision that voters cannot be offered food or water while waiting in line at the polls—both require additional documentation when applying for an absentee ballot. Nationwide 47 states are looking to pass similar election bills. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky signed a bill Wednesday that will allow three days of early voting, online absentee registration and drop boxes for ballots. The bipartisan bill passed the Kentucky House last month and the Senate followed shortly after. 

In criticizing the original provision removing the authority of the governor or Indiana Election Division to reschedule elections, Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, argued that having lawmakers go into session to change the time, date and location of an election just isn’t timely enough. He mentioned by way of example that in southern Indiana, there is a fault line that could potentially cause an earthquake that would disrupt everyday life.

“Somebody is going to have to step in and make some very quick decisions,” Pierce said. “I think allowing the election division in both parties unanimously being able to decide what to do is the way to go.” 

Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, voted against the amendment, saying he thinks it’s proper for the General Assembly to choose the time, date and manner of an election and that he liked the bill in its original form. 

“If there are emergencies, I still think it is important for the legislature to be the primary driver of those policies,” Manning said. 

The bill now moves out of committee and is headed for a second reading in the House. 

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

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