Above: Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, presents his HB 1334 before the Senate Elections Committee.
Absentee voters would need to send in additional means of identification to be verified under the amended House Bill 1334, which was passed by a Senate committee Monday and now goes to the Senate Chamber.
This bill would require that absentee voters submit the last four digits of their Social Security number, driver’s license number, non-driver ID or voter ID number. Alternatively, the applicant could instead send a photocopy of any identification covered under Indiana law, like a passport or a driver’s license.
The Senate Elections Committee met Monday to discuss the bill, which received hours of testimony and discussion as it made its way through the House, and it will now face the full Senate.
According to the bill’s author, Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, his amendments aim to alleviate the concerns presented to him during the bill’s last hearing, where organizations such as Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana Elections Division testified in opposition.
The amendment brought on Monday would require the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles to share driver’s license numbers with county clerks to match identification numbers on absentee voter applications.
The bill also provides that if political candidates or parties send out absentee voter applications, they must include a disclaimer somewhere on the application that explains who funded it and sent it.
“The bill does not preclude a candidate or a political party from mailing absentee ballot applications. That is widespread common practice here in Indiana for political parties to mail absentee ballot applications,” Wesco said. “The only thing that state law requires is that they put a disclaimer on that third-party absentee ballot application of who paid for the application and that it was not requested by the clerk’s office because it has led to a lot of confusion.”
Sen. Andrea Hunley, D-Indianapolis, was concerned that the bill’s language on checking voter identification could be confusing for counties where the county clerk and the voter registration official are not the same individuals. This is the case with Hunley’s home county, Marion County.
Wesco, however, dismissed it, saying that identification would be handled by whoever is in charge of registration. He said he hasn’t had anyone in any of the counties bring that concern to him.
“Well, I’m Marion County, and so I’m coming with the concern,” Hunley said.
Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, authored two amendments for the bill, with both failing nearly along party lines.
His second amendment tackled the “excuses” portion of the absentee voter application. Currently on the application, the voter has to put down their reason for voting by mail. Ford’s amendment aimed to eliminate this section.
“Essentially, I’m just asking why the government needs to know and who is following up, who is investigating to make sure that people are checking this,” Ford said. “It’s my understanding that that’s not happening.”
Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, was the only Republican to vote with Democrats in support of Ford’s second amendment, with only Democrats voting for the first.
Wesco’s amended bill passed with a vote of 6-2.
Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.