Indiana lawmakers look into expanding voter access

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INDIANAPOLIS — A panel of Indiana lawmakers is recommending the Legislature consider offering Election Day voter registration and expanding mail voting options, saying the state needs to look for ways to increase voter turnout while preserving ballot security.

Republican Sen. Greg Walker, who chairs the Interim Study Committee, said he’s working on legislation for next year that would allow Indiana residents to use absentee ballots without having to provide an excuse. Residents are currently required to pick one of 11 specific reasons in order to vote absentee, though the state doesn’t verify that the reasons are valid.

State law also requires Indiana residents to register to vote no later than 29 days before the election. Studies have found that Election Day voter registration has increased voter turnout, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Same-day voter registration is a major priority for Common Cause Indiana, said Julia Vaughn, policy director for the political watchdog organization.

“It would help all of those people caught up in administrative problems. It helps people who have moved,” Vaughn said. “It just makes the Election Day process so much more accessible to so many different kinds of voters.”

Any changes lawmakers make likely won’t be enacted before the May primary election or the November 2018 general election, said Rep. Kathy Richardson, a Noblesville Republican and vice chairwoman of the House Elections Committee.

“It’s too soon,” Richardson said. “I do think it’s something that we’re willing to look at and see if we can learn from other states, what they’ve done, and make sure that we don’t make some of the same mistakes that maybe they made and go from there.

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