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Controversial elections bill dies without further action as legislature temporarily adjourns

Follow our legislative coverage at The Indiana Citizen, in partnership with TheStatehouseFile.com

Among the bills that died in the last hours before lawmakers temporarily adjourned their 2021 legislative session Thursday was Senate Bill 353, a bill that at one point was likened to controversial Georgia legislation aimed at absentee voting procedures.

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, confirmed during Thursday’s post-session availability that SB 353 had not advanced to a final vote. That’s despite concerns from the bill’s author, Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, about preventing potential voter fraud.

“Whether fraud occurs with one vote, one hundred votes, or one hundred thousand votes, we should do everything in our power to prevent it from occurring,” Houchin said in a statement issued after Thursday’s adjournment.

“While I am thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for supporting this common-sense legislation, I am disappointed that the House of Representatives failed to take action on this bill. I will continue to look for ways to improve our election security over the interim, and we will be back next session to continue this important work.”

The bill had passed the third reading on the House floor April 14. But, due to differences in the language of the bill from what passed earlier in the Senate, SB 353 had to go to a conference committee so lawmakers could come  to a final agreement on the bill’s provisions. The conference committee met earlier this week but did not take action.

SB 353 initially would have required an individual to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. Houchin later amended the bill to remove that provision and added another that said to apply for an absentee ballot, voters would be required to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, as is required by the Georgia legislation. Houchin also added a provision that allowed only the Indiana General Assembly to reschedule an election or expand absentee voting as Gov. Eric Holcomb had done after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

That version was passed by the Senate, but the bill was amended in the House to remove the Senate provisions, leaving only a requirement that if Hoosiers applied for an absentee ballot online, they would have to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

In arguing for the requirement of additional documentation for absentee voting applications, Houchin had said the provision was consistent with Indiana’s voter ID law, which requires Hoosiers to show a state-issued ID to vote.

Indiana was one of the first states to require an ID for voting back in 2005 in order to avoid “fraudulent voting.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Indiana is one of the six states in the U.S. that have strict photo ID rules. If Hoosiers don’t bring their ID, then they are on a provisional ballot and will have to go back to the polling place to show their ID for verification.

Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. 

Learn more: John Krull Commentary: Georgia on our minds, new version of an old tune