Hoosiers convicted of a voting fraud felony would be barred from voting for 10 years under an amended bill passed out of a House committee Wednesday.
In the 2023 legislative session, Indiana lawmakers are being presented with a variety of bills dealing with election security, which has been an ongoing controversy, crossing party lines, for years.
Most have yet to be heard in committee, though the House Elections and Apportionment Committee (above) met Wednesday morning to discuss a few election bills authored by committee chair Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, regarding voter fraud sentencing, election date schedules and electronic signatures for campaign contributions.
There was significant debate over House Bill 1116’s provision to bar anyone with a voter fraud conviction from voting for 10 years.
Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, questioned taking away a Hoosier’s right to vote, despite conviction.
“We should not continue to penalize people,” Pryor said. “Indiana was probably one of the first states that allowed people who had been convicted felons that have served their time to be allowed to vote, and I think this is a regression of that policy.”
Wesco pushed back, saying, “I think it’s important to remember as well [that] this is about protecting our elections from continued violations of voter fraud.”
Julia Vaughn (above, upper right), the executive director of Common Cause Indiana, said the organization is against the bill’s language purely because her organization doesn’t find voter fraud to be an issue in Indiana.
“We oppose that language because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud is not an issue in Indiana; it is isolated and rare, and when it does happen, the current penalties are sufficient,” Vaughn said in a statement to TheStatehouseFile.com.
“We’re concerned about the language, though, because even if this penalty would impact a handful of people, it represents major backsliding on disenfranchisement. As restrictive as Indiana voting laws are, we don’t disenfranchise ex-felons once they complete their sentence.
“That’s the way it should be, and our leaders have been correct to not support disenfranchisement for violent crimes; so why single out vote fraud for this ‘extra’ punishment?”
The bill was approved by the committee by a vote of 6-4, with three lawmakers excused.
The House Elections and Apportionment Committee has been assigned over 25 different bills, including House Bill 1225, which has not been heard yet,. Authored by Rep. Michael Aylesworth, R-Hebron, the bill pushes for “the interim study committee on elections to study all issues relating to making voting by absentee ballot by mail as secure as in-person voting.”
Also addressing absentee voting, House Bill 1334 authored by Wesco pushes to tighten the requirements for absentee voters. If submitting an absentee voter application, the applicant would have to include the last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number, as well as either the applicant’s Indiana driver’s license number, Indiana identification card number for nondrivers, or the identifying number assigned to the applicant’s voter registration record.
Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.