Indiana voters should go prepared to the polls

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

Julia Vaughn, CC-Indiana, (317) 432-3264

Indiana voters face a series of obstacles to cast a ballot in the state’s primary election on Tuesday, and should plan to go prepared to the polls or risk losing the right to vote. The combination of a draconian voter ID law that allows citizens to vote only with Indiana state or US government-issued photo ID, the fact that Indiana still deploys paperless electronic voting machines that have been known to malfunction, and the late surge in voter registrations, is sure to test the election system, according to a report by Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Indiana voters to be part of the process of choosing our next president,” said Stevie Miller, executive director of Common Cause Indiana. “But we are also looking at circumstances that require voters to know their rights and come prepared.”

“The disappointing Supreme Court ruling this week that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law is likely to disproportionately impact young voters, senior citizens and minorities, who are less likely to have the requisite ID,” said Tova Wang, an elections expert and vice president of research for Common Cause.

Potential for problems exists also due simply to the volume of new voters expected at the polls. Nearly 330,000 people have registered to vote in Indiana since November 2006, according to the secretary of state’s office. That includes more than 150,000 people who have registered since January.

Finally, more than 2.5 million Indiana voters are expected to vote on paperless electronic machines that have a history of unreliability and security problems. That means if a machine fails or malfunctions, and election jurisdictions do not have back-up paper ballots on hand, voters may be turned away at the polls or face long lines.

“Election workers must do everything they can to be sure that all votes are counted as cast,” said Pam Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation.

To avoid voter disenfranchisement, the report recommends: ‘ Voters must carry an Indiana state or U.S. government-issued photo identification to the polls. The photo ID must be either current or have an expiration date some time after the state’s last general election on Nov. 7, 2006.

‘ If a voter does not have an Indiana state or U.S. government-issued photo ID with a relatively current expiration date, she or he is still entitled to vote by provisional ballot, but must bring a photo ID to the county election board or the county clerk’s office within 10 days.

‘ If a voter is indigent, and does not have a valid photo ID, she or he is still entitled to vote by provisional ballot but must visit the county election office and sign an affidavit as to his or her indigence.

‘ Students must have a relatively current Indiana state or U.S. government-issued photo ID with an expiration date in order to vote. Students may only use identification from Indiana state schools if there is an expiration date on the card. Student identification from private universities is not acceptable.

‘ If a voter has recently registered, but does not find his or her name on the list of registered voters, he or she may still have a right to vote on a regular ballot and definitely has the right to vote on a provisional ballot. The voter should ask poll workers to check supplemental voting lists and ask the poll workers to call the county board of elections. As a last resort the voter should ask to vote on a provisional ballot.

‘ If a voter is at a polling place where voting machines have broken down or failed to start up, he or she should not just leave, but instead request an emergency paper ballot to vote.

‘ A voter who experiences problems on or before Election Day should call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

The report also recommends to election officials:

Poll workers should know that if voters do not have the correct ID, they may vote by provisional ballot. However, poll workers must inform voters that their vote will not count unless the voter returns to the county clerks office within 10 days and presents election officials with an Indiana state or U.S. government issued photo ID.

County clerks should instruct precincts to be stocked with enough emergency paper ballots so that no voter is disenfranchised if voting machines malfunction.

State and county election officials should distinguish between emergency paper ballots and provisional ballots, since each must be treated differently in the counting process.

State and county election officials should thoroughly educate poll workers about the use of provisional ballots and voter identification requirements.

County election officials should make every effort to ensure there are enough machines at each polling place to accommodate unprecedented turnout.

Click here to view the full report.