by Barbara Tully
Some publications in northern Indiana recently published a piece about the no-excuse absentee voting lawsuit now before the U. S. Supreme Court. The article was a clear attempt to disparage the effort to put Indiana election administration in line with the 21st Century and best practices around the nation merely because the attorneys working on the case may be “liberal.” The case for no-excuse absentee voting is clear:
No-excuse absentee voting does not exclude any voters.
No-excuse absentee voting is better for rural and urban voters alike.
No-excuse absentee voting benefits all voters regardless of their partisan leanings. It does not favor one political party over another.
No-excuse absentee voting means voters do not have to tell the county election office why they are unable to vote in-person.
No-excuse absentee voting gives voters the option of voting at their convenience from the safety and privacy of their own home, rather than being required to brave inclement weather and long lines at polling locations.
County election officials have neither the time nor the expertise to monitor excuses on absentee ballot applications. One Indiana county clerk asserted that so long one of the boxes is checked on the absentee ballot application, no further action is necessary other than to verify that the voter is validly registered. What are the criteria to determine who qualifies as a ‘disabled’ voter, and who is qualified to assess this without invading privacy rights? Will the county election office send someone to the voter’s house to find out if they are home on election day when they applied for the absentee ballot and said they would be away?
Indiana is one of only a handful of states clinging to the outdated notion that having an excuse on the absentee ballot application is necessary to preserve election integrity. In a paper published by the conservative think-tank R Street in February 2021, “The Case Against Restricting Voting Access” (https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Final-Short-100-voting-access.pdf ), the authors assert that “abolishing no-excuse voting will not close any purported paths to fraud.” They continue that “moving to an excuse-only absentee system would do nothing to combat fraud, and may instead suppress voter turnout.”
In addition to the State’s insistence on keeping absentee ballot excuses in place, other examples of legislative mischief abound. These include:
- This year’s effort to restrict any expansion in the use of absentee ballots.
- The bill passed in the 2020 legislative session that would prohibit Indiana from joining other states in an effort to keep voter rolls clean.
- The Indiana House and the Indiana Senate rejection this year of measures that would have approved the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.
- The failure of the Legislature to adopt a uniform 6 pm Election Day deadline for receipt of mailed absentee ballots.
- The failure of Indiana election officials to establish and maintain a permanent no-excuse absentee voter list or to adopt same-day voter registration or automatic voter registration.
Is Indiana really invested in making sure ALL voters have an opportunity to vote? Or do Indiana officials only want some voters to be able to vote? The work of everyday citizens needs to be loud and clear regarding voting rights: we should all join forces to ensure that every eligible Hoosier is able to vote conveniently and we need to actively oppose legislative efforts in Indiana and elsewhere that will only increase the burdens on the right to vote and thereby undermine our electoral system and, by extension, our very democracy.
Barbara Tully is the president of Indiana Vote By Mail.