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Republicans reject effort to expand vote-by-mail to all Hoosiers

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Government, Politics
Voters in Indiana can only vote by mail if they meet one of about a dozen reasons, including if they're age 65 or older or if they'll be unable to vote in person the entire time polls are open on Election Day. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

A Senate committee rejected an effort Monday to allow anyone to vote absentee by mail in Indiana.

The rejection comes as a bill to add greater voter ID requirements to vote-by-mail heads to the full Senate.

The bill, HB 1334, requires voters who mail in an application to vote by mail to include either their driver’s license, state ID or voting ID number, or a photocopy of a photo ID they can use for voting.

Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) said his bill simply extends voter ID requirements used for in-person voting to voting by mail.

“I’ve long felt that the process of simply matching signatures as the means of verifying the authenticity of an absentee ballot application is insufficient and extremely subjective,” Wesco said.

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Democrats objected, saying Wesco’s bill creates an unnecessary hurdle. But Sen. J.D. Ford (R-Indianapolis) said if they’re going to add this requirement, then vote-by-mail should be open to everyone. He proposed an amendment to eliminate the excuses needed to cast a mail-in ballot.

“Essentially, I’m just asking why the government needs to know,” Ford said.

Most Republicans on the Senate Elections Committee rejected Ford’s proposal, without explanation. Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus), who has long advocated for no-excuse absentee voting, supported the amendment.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.