With Kersey’s help, Indiana Legislature takes a “baby step” toward improved voter turnout

April 12, 2017 Clyde Kersey

For immediate release:
April 12, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – Thanks to the efforts of State Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), lawmakers will be able to say they did something in the 2017 legislative session to improve voter turnout in Indiana.

House members today concurred with changes made to House Bill 1178 by the Indiana Senate. The measure authored by Kersey – the only piece of election reform that appears likely to pass this session – now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb for final approval.

House Bill 1178 requires Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) employees to ask each person conducting business at the local license branch if they would like to register to vote. If the answer is yes, the employee must provide the proper forms to register, then provide additional information on how to file the paperwork with the county voter registration office.

“Does this legislation cure what ails Indiana’s broken election system? Not even close,” Kersey said. “But considering the usual intransigence that comes from the majority party when it comes to election reform, I am pleased whenever we can take any steps to get more people to vote. I just wish we weren’t taking baby steps.”

In its original form, HB 1178 would have enabled a person to automatically register to vote when they obtained or renewed their driver’s license at the BMV. However, that measure was changed by the Republicans who control the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee, then scaled back even further in the Senate.

“Indiana’s voter turnout was the 11th worst in the nation in 2016 and the absolute worst in 2014,” Kersey noted. “Everyone has a right to be concerned about such paltry figures, and the Legislature should be discussing concepts like automatic voter registration, registration on Election Day, no-excuse absentee voting, voting by mail, and above all, having an independent commission in charge of drawing the districts for the Legislature and our members of Congress.

“To get these things into law, we will need the public’s help,” he continued. “I believe our democracy works the best when everyone has an equal opportunity to vote, and right now there are too many barriers being placed in front of the people of Indiana. I am hopeful today’s passage is the first step toward meaningful, lasting reform.”

House members also gave final approval to House Bill 1181, a 160-page plus opus that contains technical corrections to the Indiana Code.

“Each year, a few dedicated people who work in the Legislative Services Agency go through the Code and make sure that all the legislation we passed in the 2016 session matches up,” Kersey said. “They take the time to see that all the punctuation is put in the right place, and that the language matches the intent. If you take the time to scroll through HB 1181, you’ll find it deals with dozens of different topics, including taxation, economic development, law enforcement, health care, and penalties for crimes. It’s a dirty, time-consuming job, but it has to be done to make sure it’s all correct. The folks who devote their time to it deserve our applause.”