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Indiana’s Legislature Indifferent to Critical State of Civic Health

The recent events should serve as a wake-up call for Indiana’s elected officials, akin to the urgent alerts of medical devices signaling a patient in critical condition. If you haven’t reviewed the report yet, allow me to highlight the concerning indicators. Indiana:

* Ranked at the bottom, 50th place, in terms of voter turnout during the 2022 elections.

* Has consistently lingered in the bottom 10 states for voting turnout over the past 13 years.

* Regressed in both voter participation and registration rankings over the past 11 years.

This downward trajectory is alarming for our state and demands immediate attention from the Indiana legislature. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of a “do no harm” principle akin to the Hippocratic oath when it comes to safeguarding our civic well-being. Instead of streamlining voter registration processes, Indiana lawmakers are advocating for [ppp1] that, under the guise of “election security,” singles out new citizens for heightened scrutiny if they attempt to register to vote based on potentially outdated information from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles flagging them as non-citizens. This proposed measure is not only unnecessary and poorly thought out but is also likely to face legal challenges.

Furthermore, the bill introduces a procedure to cross-reference a voter’s address using a database managed by Experian, a major credit bureau. This raises concerns regarding the accuracy of data utilized to question voter registrations and raises privacy issues regarding the amalgamation of sensitive financial data with governmental databases. HB 1264 also introduces logistical hurdles that will impede volunteer organizations like [ppp2] from registering high school and college students or individuals unable to provide proof of residency. Given the current state of our civic health, this alteration to a law that has been in effect for over two decades steers us in the wrong direction.

Our civic health “caretakers” are not merely passive bystanders to our civic alarms; it appears they are actively undermining efforts to salvage our civic well-being. The findings of the Civic Health Index report underscore the General Assembly’s sustained endeavor to diminish voter engagement. The report points to reduced electoral competition due to gerrymandering and administrative decisions that hinder voter registration and limit voting hours, which collectively contribute to our civic health deterioration. Unsurprisingly, in recent years, the Indiana legislature has rebuffed proposals for extended voting hours, perpetuated gerrymandering practices to favor political interests over citizen welfare, and imposed cumbersome barriers to ballot accessibility. Fortunately, there are lessons to be gleaned from the practices of civic health “practitioners” in other states. The index suggests that states with robust civic health embrace automatic voter registration, same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and voting hours exceeding 12 hours on election day.

By incorporating fair redistricting through an impartial citizens’ commission devoid of partisan influences and repealing the 2021 affiliation law, Indiana could emerge as a model of exemplary civic health. The remedy for enhancing civic well-being is within reach. It is incumbent upon our elected representatives to heed this call.