The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

Am I registered to vote?

Being an Indiana Citizen starts with registering to vote. Register here or confirm registration.

Sheila Kennedy commentary: A down-ballot threat

A recent article from Time Magazine highlighted yet another threat to American democracy–and this particular threat is especially worrisome, because it involves political contests that voters rarely focus on. In our highly polarized era, most voters no longer split their tickets, and few even bother to look “down ballot”–beyond the more publicized races to local contests.

That lack of attention could be especially costly this year. As the Time article reported, the midterm elections will see numerous “election deniers — MAGA hardliners who trumpet former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen” running for positions that oversee elections at the state and local levels.

The article continues, “Inspired by Steve Bannon’s so-called ‘precinct strategy,’ far-right activists have flooded local precincts, signed up en masse to be poll workers, and orchestrated harassment of existing officials.

”At the same time, election deniers are winning GOP nominations for key election-related roles in major swing states. According to data compiled by States United Action, a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to protecting elections, 13 election-deniers are running for Attorney General in 11 states, 19 are running for Secretary of State in 15 states, and 25 election deniers are running for Governor in 15 states as of July 11. More than one-third of Attorney General and Governor races in 2022 include an election denier, and more than half of the candidates for Secretary of State have embraced some form of the Big Lie.”

A newsletter authored by Robert Reich echoed the message, warning about a dark-money group called the America First Secretary of State Coalition. As he wrote, “The coalition was formed by radical MAGA candidates who are running for secretary of state in key battleground states. In most states, the secretary of state oversees elections—including determining who is eligible to vote and with the power to kick voters off the rolls, throw out votes, and declare the winners of elections.

“The goal of the America First Secretary of State Coalition is to elect Trump marionettes to the top elections administration in critical swing states so that when the 2024 election comes, they will have the power to declare Trump the winner—no matter the true will of the voters.”

As I have previously reported, Indiana has one of those “Big Lie” supporters running for Secretary of State. Republican nominee Diego Morales has called the 2020 election “a scam,” and promised to make “voter fraud” (apparently, people voting for Democrats) a focus of his efforts if elected. Morales has vowed to purge voter rolls, limit absentee ballots and allow voting only on Election Day.

You need not take my word for it: I’ve previously quoted James Briggs of The Indianapolis Star, who seemed incredulous about Morales’ nomination. Briggs wrote, “The Indiana Republican Party on Saturday nominated a secretary of state candidate so broadly unacceptable that the selection must be setting some kind of record for political ineptitude.

“Their choice, Diego Morales, once worked in the secretary of state’s office. That would normally be a good thing. Experience!

“Except…

“Except that, well, Morales got fired in 2009 over incompetence and a “lack of professionalism,” according to his personnel file. Morales disputes the record, as IndyStar’s Kaitlin Lange wrote, but his file doesn’t leave much ambiguity as to whether he met expectations in his job as a special assistant under Todd Rokita.”

Anyone rational–let alone patriotic– willing to spend even a few minutes contrasting Morales with the Democratic candidate, Destiny Wells, would have no difficulty deciding to vote for Wells. She’s a U.S. Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, a lawyer and an entrepreneur. She says. “I’m running for Indiana Secretary of State to safeguard democracy and the freedom to vote right here at home. I have worked at all levels of government—local, state, federal, and the multi-national level with NATO. As an attorney, I’ve been Associate Corporation Counsel for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County, and Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana. And as a military intelligence officer, I have seen first hand the state of democracy across the world.”

This choice should be a “no brainer.” But this is Indiana, where far too many voters reflexively choose anyone with an “R” by their name, no matter how flawed, dishonest or otherwise unacceptable. So, Indiana readers, please spread the word. Tell your friends and family. Visit Wells’ website (and send her some money so she can run a visible campaign. I just did.) The last thing Hoosiers need is an incompetent “Big Lie” proponent overseeing our elections.

Help defeat Indiana’s “Trump marionette.”

Kennedy recently retired as professor of law and public policy at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.