Thursday, March 12, 2015

General Assembly Attacks Voting Procedures

Paul Ogden made the claim on his blog that General Assembly actions don't have anything to do with turnout in an election.  It's in response to a Nuvo piece by new co-director of the Indiana Elections Division, Trent Deckard.  

Deckard argues that three bills, which I will discuss later in this post, are going to further damage voter turnout.  Ogden claims that voter turnout hasn't really changed over time and that the General Assembly bills should be debated on merit. 

In my view, even the most staunch defender of the Republican Party must admit that there's really not much of a reason to get rid of straight-ticket voting and to force people to put their voter ID number on their absentee ballot envelopes.  There's also very little reason to bar college students from voting in their college towns.  These are superfluous actions designed to do very little to reform our electoral process and make it harder to vote.

(And, frankly, harder on Democrats.)

Getting rid of straight ticket voting will increase the time it takes to fill out a ballot.  It also increases the likelihood of undervotes for offices further down the ballot.  That won't spoil a ballot, but it will cause problems for the candidates for the offices that don't tend to be at the top of the ballot.  Republicans have used slow down tactics on Democrats for years because of proven D voting patterns.  There was no urgency or grassroots effort to get rid of straight ticket voting.  It was just an idea some Republican (Mike Delph) had.  Elections have consequences.

The voter ID number bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Young, is another tactic to suppress absentee voting.  Who the heck knows their voter ID number?  I don't.  Young says it's necessary to prevent voter fraud which we all know is such a problem in Indiana (sarcasm intended).  Again, this is designed to disqualify votes.  Elections have consequences.

Another bill, co-authored by Young, is a mess.  Just read the synopsis.  I got to about the fifth or sixth sentence when my eyes crossed.  This is another omnibus bill full of mess.  Buried in the bill is a provision that states a student's legal residence is either where they live when they are not at school or where they live at school only if they don't plan on returning to their former residence to live.  Just read this mess.  

So, regardless of what you think about turnout, these three bills are simply wrong for Indiana voters.

1 comment:

Paul K. Ogden said...

Thanks for the link, Jon. To clarify I wasn't saying that there was not anything the legislature could do that would hurt turnout. I was saying that Deckard's claim that turnout had dropped due to obstacles enacted by the legislature was all wet. The premise was wrong. Real turnout has not increased.

What has happened is that over a 24 year period when the population increased by 19%, registrations in the state increased by 59%. The obvious reason for that is the removal of automatic purges that had previously kept voter registration rolls relatively clean of voters who were deceased and who had been removed. Indiana has been one of the worst states in terms of following the more cumbersome and expensive process for removing people from the voter registration lists and state and local officials has been sued for that failure. When you have inflated registration figures as we have here in Indiana, turnout is going to appear to be lower. If you look at voting though in terms of Indiana's adult population, you find that turnout has remained remarkably steady over 24 years and even increased slightly.

In that particular article, I wasn't expressing any opinion on the three bills as that would have made my article too long and distracted from my point. I don't have strong opinions on the current bills, though in another piece I pointed out that the nefarious nature of a couple of those bills were being exaggerated. As far as the straight ticket voting measure, I am puzzled by Democrats' sudden opposition. That's always been a good government measure that Republicans, and not Democrats, have resisted. The elimination of straight ticket voting would likely help Democratic candidates. Personally I could go either way on the measure. I think there's a good argument for both sides.