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Controversial Absentee Ballot Application Bill Dramatically Scaled Back

absentee ballot

New voter identification requirements would only apply to online absentee ballot applications under changes made to legislation in the House Elections Committee. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

A House committee dramatically scaled back a controversial bill Thursday that would have imposed new voter identification requirements on absentee ballot applications.

A main focus of the bill, SB 353, was requiring voters to include either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on applications for an absentee ballot.

But many voters don’t know which of those two numbers is in their voter file. If they pick the wrong one, their application would be denied. And some older voters don't have either number in their voter registration record, which would also lead to that application denial.

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A change made in the committee largely deletes that requirement. Instead, committee chair Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) said the bill now only tells Hoosiers to include their driver’s license number or last four of their social on an online absentee ballot application.

“It would make it more difficult for someone to request an absentee ballot for another person without their consent, because they would have to have that personal information,” Wesco said.

The bill would not allow an application to be denied if the license number or last four of the social doesn’t match whichever number is in the voter’s registration record.

Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) noted that paper applications require a signature match that online applications don’t have.

The committee also deleted from the bill language that would’ve banned the governor or the Indiana Election Commission from making changes to elections, like they did last year for the primary during COVID-19.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said if the provided identification number didn't match the voter registration online absentee ballot applications would be denied. That was incorrect. The amendment does not allow those applications to be denied in that scenario. 

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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