ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Voting rights should be expanded

This editorial was originally published May 6 in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. 

When it comes to the nationwide orgy of undemocratic voter-suppression efforts undertaken this year by Republican legislatures, Indiana has been one of the lucky ones.

So far. Indiana GOP proposals to make it more difficult to cast absentee ballots in the Hoosier state failed to make it through the legislative process in the waning days of the General Assembly. But it was a close call. The Senate approved a bill that complicated the voter-ID process for those seeking an absentee ballot and would forbid any expansion of absentee balloting in the future.

It also would prevent the changing of election dates, as happened for last year’s primary election during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The House watered the bill down considerably, and it died in conference committee when negotiators for the two chambers couldn’t resolve differences.

Voters should be relieved that this bill flamed out. It would have made Indiana’s voter-access laws more restrictive than ever, and any claim that it would have resulted in greater election integrity is laughable.

Indiana’s election system is safe and secure. It resulted in free and fair elections in 2020, as was the case across the country. That has not stopped many Republicans, led by defeated former President Donald Trump, from claiming that the election was somehow stolen because of fraud. No evidence of that alleged widespread fraud exists.

Trump continues to stoke the fires of doubt about the election among his loyalists, and that has fueled the drive for new laws to crack down on voter access to polling places, as well as absentee or mail-in ballots. They are solutions in search of a problem.

Although the latest attempt to restrict voting rights in Indiana was turned away, the forces of voter suppression are bound to return. Because of the dominance of Republicans in the legislature, there will always be those ready and willing to advance the cause.

It is a frustrating position for voting-rights advocates in the state to have to fight off attempts to make voting more difficult. Indiana voting laws are already among the most restrictive in the nation, with relatively short voting hours on election day, a voter registration deadline a month out from the election, and strict rules for who can vote absentee.

Voting laws that open the election process to more participation and make it more convenient are highly popular in places where they exist. Advocates for expansion of voting rights should remember that.

It’s important to protect the voting access we have in Indiana. It’s also essential to keep up the fight to expand the process and transform our state into a more voter-friendly place.

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