Libertarian Jeff Maurer hopes to make election history in Indiana, and he can do that in November, by being elected Secretary of State since his party has never won a statewide office here.
But Maurer says he also aims to make voters feel more confident in the election process at a time when public trust is at risk.
He announced his candidacy in August 2021 but officially threw his hat in the ring for secretary of state after winning his party’s nomination in March.
Maurer said he moved to Carmel in 2013 “for a better quality of life, after being exhausted by corrupt politics, big government and high taxes in New York” — a view similar to that of his Libertarian Party, which believes “all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose,” according to the party’s website.
Maurer serves as a development officer for Students of Liberty, a student organization focused on championing free markets and free speech around the world. He sits on his community’s Economic Development Commission and Home Place Advisor Board. He joined his local volunteer fire department at 16 and served as a firefighter and officer for more than 12 years.
He is currently enlisted in the Indiana Air National Guard. In fact, all three contenders for secretary of state have served in the armed forces, although Republican Diego Morales’ veteran status has been under scrutiny.
Maurer also owns a small VR tech company—one reason he would like, if elected, to improve the Business Services division by streamlining the process for businesses to get started, receive information and have the customer support they need.
“Government does not create businesses, people do, Hoosiers do, and businesses create jobs, our neighbors create jobs, not government,” he said. “Government’s job and responsibility here is to get done what needs to be done but then to immediately get out of the way so that our entrepreneurs and business owners can get to work serving their customers, creating jobs and feeding their families.”
Focused on election verification
Maurer said after seeing the hurt the nation experienced in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, it became important to him that something be done to restore and rebuild trust in the election process.
Having worked in tech, transportation, and budget and finance, Maurer believes his background puts him in a unique position to solve this issue, by using new technology to “bring a fresh air of transparency, accountability and accessibility to build trust.”
Maurer’s campaign is centered around the idea of changing the way we do elections. One idea he suggests is to have elections be more like “an open-concept restaurant.”
“I want us to be able to have confidence that you can see your vote, see how it’s being counted and rebuild trust so we are never in this position again,” he said.
Maurer said voters would receive a receipt after voting so that they would be able to track their vote, like a package, throughout the election process.
“A receipt will give you the information and the power to go online, look up your vote, track it and know that your voice has been heard. That’s the value of the receipt,” Maurer said. “That’s the level of trust that we’ve strengthened in our elections.”
“It’s not about one party or the other,” he said. “It’s about a process that’s failing us and will continue to fail us. It will only get worse until we take action [now] to make things better.”
Maurer also believes the auditing process should change in a number of ways because he says the current model is “woefully insufficient.”
Currently, state election audits are performed by the Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VStop) directed by Ball State University, which falls under the secretary of state’s office. Maurer said this is a conflict of interest and gives no incentive to report any wrongdoing. By having the audit performed by an independent agency, Maurer said transparency and accountability can be ensured.
Another issue he finds with the current election process is that audits are only made on the 40% of votes that have a paper copy. Nearly, 60% of Indiana’s voting machines are paperless, which may make them more vulnerable to irreversible errors and breaches, according to Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute.
According to the 2020 Post Election Audit Report, only 10% of voting machines in each Indiana county include a paper record of every vote. Election outcomes are then checked by hand-counting a randomized sample of paper-voted ballots to confirm machine accuracy. By the 2024 general election, every vote cast in Indiana will have a paper copy.
In the past, the audit is only performed on five out of 92 counties. Ten counties will be audited after the 2022 election.
“We urgently need to audit all 92 counties with an independent audit and to have that audit done before the elections are certified by federal law offices,” Maurer said.
Maurer said that the certification and verification of election results need to happen at a much quicker rate because currently “we’re saying we certify these results, we verify that they’re good before we’ve done any verification.”
Donald Rainwater, the Libertarian candidate in the 2020 gubernatorial race, is now endorsing his friend’s campaign.
“I’m really excited about the fact that Jeff has some very concrete ideas about how to improve election integrity here in the state of Indiana and do it in a nonpartisan way. And I think that’s very important,” he said.
“We definitely need to provide voters with the assurance that their vote counts because the fundamental foundation of our freedoms and the assurance that our freedoms will be preserved is our ability to vote. So, I’m just very enthusiastic about his candidacy for secretary of state for that reason,” Rainwater said.
Unlikely path to victory
ARW Strategies, an Illinois-based consulting firm conducted a poll for Indianapolis political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz in July, using text messages and phone calls.
In the July poll, 31% of respondents opted for the Democratic candidate, Destiny Wells, while 28% said they’d be supporting Republican candidate Diego Morales. Maurer pulled 7%, with 34% staying undecided. The poll has a margin error of +/- 3.64%.
“I think Destiny [Wells] does have a path to victory,” Shabazz said. “Also, I think what’s interesting too is that some of those Republicans who may not be comfortable with Diego may just go ahead and vote for Jeff Maurer. So I think the ramifications are far and wide here.”
Regardless of a win, Maurer said a strong finish would mean a lot for the Libertarian Party of Indiana. In any county where Maurer finishes in first or second place, the party would be able to appoint a Libertarian to the county’s election board for the next four years. If Maurer earns 10% or more of the statewide vote, a party primary will be held for the next four years.
Shabazz said he thinks “if enough disgruntled Republicans come out and vote, we could see libertarians having third-party status this election season.”
Shabazz said that another poll will be conducted in the next week. The results of the poll and the results after people hit the polls on Election Day could always be different.
“In politics, a day is a lifetime, and we’ve still got probably 50-something days left to Election Day, so anything can and probably will happen, so keep that in mind,” Shabazz said.
Debate to be held Tuesday
Both Maurer and his Democratic opponent, Wells, have agreed to and called for Morales to participate in a debate with them. He has declined.
In a Sept. 13 press release, Maurer responded to Morales’ refusal to participate: “Voters deserve to see all of their choices—in one place, at one time, answering the same questions by moderators who will re-ask when questions go unanswered.”
And in a Sept. 16 WFYI article, Maurer said he feels like Morales is hiding. “If your ideas are so bad that you can’t even stand in front of a crowd of people, of your neighbors, to defend them, then something’s wrong,” he said. “You need better ideas.”
Now, Maurer and Wells will be debating Tuesday afternoon without Morales.
Maurer said he hopes that, no matter what, voters take the time to learn about the candidates so they can make an informed decision at the polls.
“I’m running to solve our problems, to restore and build trust in our elections, and to do that through common sense solutions, receipts and audits,” he said. “I encourage every voter to do the research on candidates for this office. Listen to my opponents … but really understand the issues and what solutions or lack of solutions are being offered.”
Sydney Byerly is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.