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Proposed Indiana Voting Law Change Faces Corporate Criticism

One of Indiana’s most prominent corporations is criticizing an Indiana proposal that opponents maintain will make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to submit identification numbers with their ballot applications.

The bill’s Republican sponsors say the proposal is aimed at preventing voter fraud by having similar voter ID requirements for mail voting as the state requires of people casting ballots in-person at polling sites.

MORE FROM 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: Indiana Democrats, Republicans Hoping For More Diverse Legislature After Heckling Incident

Eli Lilly and Co. senior vice president Stephen Fry told a legislative committee Tuesday that the company believed state officials acted correctly to allow no-excuse mail-in voting for the spring 2020 primary because of COVID-19 concerns.

Fry said Lilly believed the bill isn't needed and will “perpetuate the narrative that the 2020 election outcome was flawed or compromised.”

The proposal would require a voter to submit their 10-digit Indiana driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their mail-in ballot application to confirm their identity.

That’s on top of the matching signature requirement already in state law.

Attorney General Todd Rokita said it’s a basic regulation that helps ensure election integrity.

“When people see that those things aren’t being done or that folks are arguing against doing that minimal thing, they don’t have confidence in the process and then they don’t participate," Rokita said. "And that’s how we lose the republic.”

MORE ON MAIL-IN VOTING: Indiana Group Asks US Supreme Court To Hear Mail Voting Suit

Bill opponents counter that will lead to many applications being rejected because of voters not knowing which number is on file with their county election office and that some older voter registration records include no such numbers.

Lake County Board of Elections Director Michelle Fajman is one of those opponents.

“Most likely, they’re going to be disenfranchised because there’s not going to be enough time to turn around and come back in,” Fajman said.

Republican legislators also want to ban the governor and the Indiana Election Commission from ever again changing the way an election is conducted during an emergency.

The governor and the Election Commission pushed back the date of Indiana’s 2020 primary from May to June. They also expanded vote-by-mail to all Hoosiers who wanted it. Both were in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But LeAnn Angerman, Lake County Board of Elections assistant director, said only the legislature should have the power to change elections, even during an emergency.

“It rests in our senators and our state representatives at all times, rather than the ability to legislate from a boardroom,” Angerman said.

Hazem Bata, Indiana Muslim Advocacy Alliance public policy advisor, worries the bill will hurt marginalized voters. He said the legislature isn’t designed to react quickly to emergencies.

“I’m not saying everything should be delegated," Bata said. "I’m just saying don’t overcompensate.”

Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem), the bill's author, Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola), the bill's sponsor, and Attorney General Rokita all say changes to elections by the governor and the Election Commission are unconstitutional, calling into question the validity of last year's Indiana primary.

Rokita also claimed there could be thousands of cases of voter fraud in Indiana. There is no evidence for that. An analysis by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, records 43 cases of election fraud in Indiana since 2003. In that time, more than 21 million Hoosiers have voted in statewide general elections alone. That would be a voter fraud rate of .0002 percent.

A House committee will likely vote on the bill later this week.

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