Indiana legislation would add extra verification steps to prove voters are eligible

Republican lawmakers in Indiana want first-time voters to prove they live in the state and additional verification of all voters’ addresses, prompting accusations from voting advocates that the proposal approved by the House could make it even tougher for some people to vote.

Indiana voters are already required to show photo ID when casting a ballot, and a law passed last year that tightened mail-in voting requirements in the state.

Brad King, Republican co-director of the bipartisan Indiana Election Division, told lawmakers earlier this month the elections bill would let the state use commercially available credit data to ensure the statewide voter registration roll is accurate and add an identification requirement for first-time voters.

The bill was passed on party lines Monday in the Indiana state House chamber. It’s not clear when the Senate (also held by Republicans) could take it up.

Under the bill, residents who are first-time voters in Indiana would have to provide proof of residency when registering in person, unless they submit an Indiana driver’s license or social security number that matches an Indiana record.

“It’s just making voting more onerous,” Linda Hanson, president of League of Women Voters of Indiana, said.

Hanson said the requirement creates a “stumbling block” in particular for Hoosiers who have recently moved and do not have an Indiana ID.

She said students and elderly citizens at assisted living facilities often do not have utility bills, a common form of residency proof.

Indiana historically sees low voter turnout, and its polls close on election day at 6 p.m. A Democratic amendment to the elections bill that would have extended statewide voting hours to 8 p.m. failed last week.

Additionally, the new bill would allow the state to contract with third-party vendors who supply credit data. The data would be cross referenced with voter registration records to identify possible residence changes and any voters registered at nonresidential addresses.

If the state identifies a voter registration at a nonresidential address, the bill outlines a process to investigate the discrepancy. If unresolved, the voter could eventually be removed from registration.

Opponents say out-of-date or inaccurate credit data could result in some voters eventually losing their registration status.

The bill also requires officials to cross reference the state’s voter registration system with data from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The intent is to identify any noncitizens enrolled in the voter registration system, something voting advocates in Indiana say does not exist. National researchers also have found few instances, but former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have continued to make the unsupported claim.

During a Jan. 10 committee hearing on the bill, Democratic co-general counsel to the Indiana Elections Division Matthew Kochevar told lawmakers that current law already forbids noncitizens from registering to vote.

The bill says an individual found unlawfully on the voter registration system would have 30 days to provide proof of citizenship to the county voter registration office or face the cancellation of their registration. It does not specify how often the state will cross check the bureau data or how often the bureau data on temporary identification cards is updated.

Julia Vaughn, executive director of transparency and voting advocacy group Common Cause Indiana, said that 30-day timeframe is unfair.

She worries the bill could catch people who become lawful citizens and voters whose names are still on the temporary list.

“The failsafe has to move like clockwork right?” she said. “And in the real world, clockwork doesn’t always happen.”