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Bill amended to give legislature sole authority to reschedule elections, expand vote-by-mail

An Indiana Senate bill that would have set new requirements for voting has been amended instead to give the Indiana General Assembly sole authority to reschedule elections and expand absentee voting as Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Election Commission did with the Indiana primary in 2020.

Both the Senate Elections and Rules and Legislative Procedures committees on Feb. 15 approved the amended Senate Bill 353, sending it to the full Senate for review.

As introduced in in January by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, the bill would have required an individual to show proof of citizenship to register to vote as well as post-election “risk-limiting audits.’’

That language was removed by the committee and replaced with the provision that only the state legislature could set the “time, place or manner” of an election. The amended bill also states that the governor does not have the power “to institute, increase, or expand vote by mail or absentee vote by mail,” limiting that authority to the Indiana General Assembly as well.

Amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Holcomb issued an executive order changing the date of the primary election from May 5 to June 2 and to allow no-excuse absentee voting. The Indiana Election Commission later voted to make the change as well, although no-excuse absentee voting was not allowed in the general election. — The Indiana Citizen