The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 1:00 am

General assembly

Bill to decide election rules clears Senate

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Only the Legislature could change the time, manner and place of elections in the future under a bill approved Monday by the Indiana Senate, 34-15.

Senate Bill 353 was a reaction to the Indiana Election Commission – urged by Gov. Eric Holcomb – delaying the primary election last year and also opening up absentee mail-in voting.

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, said constitutionally only the Legislature should be able to do those things – even in an emergency. She said if there is a tornado, a local board can change locations but not impact the date of an election or how people vote.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the governor and the bipartisan Election Commission acted responsibly last year during a pandemic.

“So now, in an emergency, people don't get to vote?” he asked. “What problem did we have with the election in Indiana? My goodness are we creating a problem?”

He also pointed out the Legislature isn't in session in May or November should an emergency of any kind occur, which means a special session would be needed.

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, said the governor made the right call.

“We should be making it easier for people to vote during a pandemic,” she said. “I just don't see the wisdom in this, and I intend to vote 'no.'”

Another part of the bill would require someone requesting a mail-in ballot to include either their driver's license number or last four digits of their Social Security number. Democrats said that if the number they include doesn't match they one they registered to vote with – possibly decades before – it would be rejected.

Houchin said she will work on process to make sure valid voters aren't rejected.

“This is a bill to safeguard our elections and increase voter security,” she said.

The bill now moves to the House. All northeast Indiana legislators supported the bill.

Abortion bill passes

The Indiana House voted 67-29 on Monday to add requirements to the legal abortion process and inform women they might be able to reverse a medication-induced abortion – a claim that is not scientifically proven.

House Bill 1577 has several key sections:

• Requiring a woman younger than 18 to provide notarized parental consent to get an abortion.

• Require the informed consent brochure to include information on reversing a medication-induced abortion.

• Require a copy of the ultrasound picture of the fetus be given to the woman and placed in her chart.

“We are poised to pass a bill requiring doctors to lie to patients,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, of the abortion reversal language. She said other parts of the bill simply stigmatize and shame a woman seeking a legal abortion.

Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, voted against the bill because he said it doesn't go far enough. He supports a full ban on abortion. He said the bill is just a token and that “murder should never be regulated. It should be outlawed.”

Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, said she isn't bending to concerns that a lawsuit will be filed over the bill.

“We cannot back down because someone is threatening a lawsuit, or we would get nothing done,” she said.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, is the only area legislator to vote against the bill.

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