What is the simplest, most patriotic act one can do for their nation? Vote. Voting is the central act of self-governance, and it should be accessible to all citizens.
How can we tell if voting is accessible? Measure turnout. The year 2020 was a blockbuster for voting. Most states saw a 7.5% jump in voter participation in 2020, but Indiana’s increase was a mere 5% increase to 66%, according to the Statehouse File. In Minnesota, a whopping 80% of eligible voters participated. Minnesota allows for same day voter registration and less restrictive voter ID laws, including allowing college students to use their school ID. (Indiana requires voters to present a state or federal ID with a photo that displays the same name as your registration and in most cases, has an expiration date. This means most Hoosier voters must get to a BMV as well as a polling place to vote.)
In 2018, Congress proposed S.1 (then H.R.1) to improve voter participation, including standardizing voting procedures, funding election security, reducing conflict of interest for members of Congress, matching citizens’ small donations to boost their monetary “voice,” and making independent redistricting commissions in all states. It also requires disclosure of taxes paid for national elected leaders. In a recent letter asking Senator Todd Young to support S.1, Young summarized all of these features. S.1 improves confidence in our democratic procedures, from the citizen to those in Washington, D.C.
What is not to support? Yet Young indicated he won’t, essentially saying that Indiana’s procedures for voting are good enough at present. He also said the bill, which had bi-partisan support in 2018, is partisan. What makes it partisan is just saying it is and stopping there. Partisanship is wholesale dismissal; it’s refusal to do the work. If one leader or party doesn’t like elements of the bill, why not engage robust debate and compromise to ensure the bill’s terms serve U.S. citizens now and for the future?
Young wrote in his rebuttal that Hoosiers trusted our local procedures in 2020. Great, but many must be disenfranchised, because 34% still did not vote. Young appealed to local authority, saying the federal government would be “micromanaging” states. What he called “micromanaging” is just standardization. These are not equivalent terms. He suggested that S.1 would result in “ballot harvesting,” which is not a technical or legal term; it’s political jargonese. He doesn’t explain how a bill that mandates transparency, funds greater election security, and makes the process uniform will result in “harvesting” or related fraud.
It’s fantastic that many Hoosiers trust the integrity of our system. Trust is built on accountability, transparency, and accessibility. Lots of vote centers, early voting hours, and 2020’s primary mail-in balloting helped. They affirmed that all votes count. What confirms distrust? Long lines, showing up to vote and discovering your name has been purged, not being able to vote because registration is complicated, lacking transportation to voting centers, being unable to vote by mail, or filling out a provisional ballot without understanding what next steps you need to take to have that vote counted.
Indiana makes voting harder than it needs to be. Our state cuts off registration to 29 days before the election, the earliest allowed by federal law. It culls voters who don’t vote often enough. In 2020, it was one of four states to ban no-excuse absentee ballots. Indiana instituted its own version of Crosscheck, an interstate voting software that performed so poorly other states shut it down.
Why build barriers, rather than bridges to voting? The history of these barriers are ignominious. They’ve been instituted and weaponized against groups who have not voted for the party in power. One recent Indiana example? The reduction or moving of voting centers away from communities of color or low economic statues. Our voting laws require one voting center per 10,000 active voters as well as allow early voting to reduce lines. Yet from 2000-2016, Marion County reduced theirs to one, causing a twenty-six percent decrease in voting there. Meanwhile, Hamilton County expanded theirs, from one to two. In many other states, where there are voting centers, early voting hours and the number of polling stations have been used to reduce voting access.
Voting access is a right. The outcomes of laws that create more barriers are proven. Fewer people in specific groups vote: young people, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and those without transportation or flexible work schedule.
This Friday is “Good Trouble Day” in honor of John Lewis. Make some good trouble. Contact Senators Young and Braun in support of S.1, while you’re at it, ask them to support the John Lewis Act. At the least you can read the full text of their form responses and hold them accountable for support of access to voting among citizens. in all times and in all places, as the LWV calls for.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.