Indiana suffers from one of the lowest voter turnouts in the entire country. However, instead of looking for ways to raise voter turnout, Indiana Republicans are looking for ways to further restrict voting rights for their voters. 

Indiana Republicans enacted a law (SB 560) that legalizes voter suppression by restricting the ability of state courts to extend polling place hours. In certain polling places in 2018, Indiana counties closed polls just hours into Election Day. The GOP also passed a bill (HB 1311) to restrict the number of days Indiana voters have to return their absentee ballots from eight days before an election to twelve days. As one Indiana Dem legislator stated in response to HB 1311: “I don’t understand how we are eliminating days for people to vote. We want people to exercise their right to vote, and we want to make it as easy as we can for them to vote.” Indiana Democrats introduced amendments to HB 1311 that would have pushed back against the GOP voter suppression, including no excuse absentee voting, but the amendment failed.

Voter suppression was not just happening at the state level in Indiana, but county clerks were also involved. Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush, a Republican, recently announced that Purdue student IDs, which have been used in local elections since 2006, would not be valid at the polls. Roush’s new policy would disenfranchise hundreds of student voters. 

Democrats in Indiana introduced a number of measures that would expand voting rights in Indiana, but those attempts failed. Democrats introduced legislation that would establish same day registration and extend poll times (HB 1256SB 32), no excuse absentee voting (SB 86), automatic voter registration (SB 349), and vote-by-mail (HB 1504). All of these bills would have improved voter registration and participation, but all of these bills failed because of Republican opposition. Hoosier voters deserve better.

On the gerrymandering front, there has been some bipartisan movement to establish an independent redistricting commission. One bill that would create an independent redistricting commission (SB 105) passed the state Senate, but the bill did not advance. With redistricting occuring in 2021, the Indiana legislature should work to create an independent redistricting commission in the next session.

In good news, Indiana was able to expand election security (SB 570SB 405SB 558), which is crucial in light of Russia’s attacks on our democracy. However, Democratic bill (SB 588) that would have required paper ballots in addition to electronic ballots did not advance. Paper ballots are important for election security.

Indiana voters also received a voting rights victory in September when a federal appeals court ruled that Indiana could not kick voters off voting rolls without warning. The law at issue was passed in 2017 and allowed election officials to cancel a voter’s registration without notifying them. The Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood found that “[t]he only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.”