Cleaning Up Indiana Elections

This week’s Indiana Supreme Court ruling upholding the requirement that voters show a picture ID to vote really wasn’t much of a surprise, considering case law.  However, it does represent an important reform to stop years of egregious frauds committed by slimy characters from both parties.

I once followed a suspicious voter between three polling sites where she cast ballots, before I was able to get an official in place to challenge her at a fourth site. At the time, all she had to do was give a name, no ID, and sign in the poll book. The unusual thing was catching someone in the act, not the act itself.

Electronic voting systems have come to most counties and the age-old game of tweaking paper ballots and machines has largely passed into the ashbin of history. However, absentee balloting continues to be a gaping hole in Indiana elections.

A voter casting an “absentee ballot” simply files a basic application indicating they will not be able to physically go to a polling site on Election Day. A ballot is then mailed to their residence to be filled out and returned by mail.

Convenient? Yes. Secure and fraud-free? No. 

Slimy political agents hang around mailboxes to collect applications and ballots they filed for eligible or not eligible (dead, moved, non-citizen, etc.). Absentee ballots are cast from voters at homes that don’t exist. Small rental homes or single apartments can be found from which dozens of absentee votes are cast. The list goes on.

Prosecutions in this state for voter fraud are up, but you’ll find the cases are almost always about absentee ballot abuses.

Free Speech for All

Look at most polls and you’ll see voters are in a surly mood and wanting to boot incumbents out of office. So no one should have been surprised that congressional leadership wants to move fast to pass new restrictions on speech by those who might disagree with them.

It’s called the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, or “DISCLOSE Act.”  A long and cute title, but the bill is really designed to put duct tape over the mouths of businesses and trade associations. Labor unions and trial lawyers get a pass in the bill, an important preferential treatment with real election impacts.

For-profit corporations doing federal contract business, taking TARP money, or with as little as 20% overseas ownership would be flatly shut-out of making campaign communications. CEOs of any other corporations who tried to speak up would have to go on camera in any advertisement saying they approved the ad and could face criminal complaints. Independent expenditure ads by businesses and associations would be blocked from being on the air from April through November in Indiana.

For decades, federal campaign finance rules and “reform” packages like McCain-Feingold were crafted with some balance for corporations and labor unions. The DISCLOSE Act abandons this important balance and bipartisanship. There was no attempt at a bipartisan approach here, particularly with the current chair of the House Democrat Campaign Committee (Rep. Van Hollen) and immediate past chair of the Senate campaign committee (Sen. Chuck Schumer) actually authoring the bill.

Businesses and trade associations have First Amendment free speech rights, as reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Citizens United ruling last year. That pesky First Amendment getting in the way of politicians again.

You can take action in fighting this legislation via the Indiana Prosperity Project.