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Amended elections bill would add more restrictions on absentee voting

A bill dealing with electronic voting machines was amended in an Indiana House committee Tuesday to add provisions that would further tighten the state’s absentee voting laws, already among the nation’s most restrictive.

House Bill 1116, as introduced on Jan. 11, included provisions requiring “a voter verifiable audit paper trail for electronic voting systems,” including the acceleration of the deadline for counties to implement it. In a House Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday morning, an amendment proposed by the bill’s authority, Rep. Timothy Wesco (above),  R-Osceola, was approved in a party-line vote by the committee’s Republican majority, adding a provision requiring voters who apply for absentee ballots to attest that they won’t be able to vote in person at any time during the 28 days before Election Day, as part of an affidavit already required under state law that applicants provide “under penalty of perjury.”

The amendment also includes a provision that applicants must provide their Indiana drivers license number or the last four digits of their social security number, a provision included in a controversial Indiana Senate bill that stopped short of passage in 2021 and has been included in a Senate bill this year.

Associated Press coverage of the hearing quoted Wesco as describing the amendment as a result of the greater availability of early voting, saying, “I believe the best policy is to encourage people to vote in person, whether on Election Day or in-person early as much as possible.”

The AP story also quoted Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana, as criticizing the bill for unnecessariliy discouraging absentee voters, saying, “We haven’t had problems in terms of fraud connected with voting by mail. So this new language is completely unnecessary and really does a disservice to voters.”

With the committee’s approval of the amended House bill Tuesday, it is now eligible for a vote by the full House. — The Indiana Citizen