Governor signs into law Kersey voter reform plan

April 21, 2017 Clyde Kersey

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has given final approval to a measure authored by State Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute) that provides the sole substantial effort by lawmakers in the 2017 legislative session to improve voter turnout.

House Enrolled Act 1178 expands the opportunities provided to Hoosiers to get the materials needed for them to register to vote when they visit their local license branch.

“Under current law, license branches can offer a voter registration application whenever someone applies for a driver’s license, permit, or identification card,” Kersey said.

“HEA 1178 enables branch employees to ask individuals making other types of transactions at the BMV if they would like to register to vote,” he continued. “If the answer to that question is yes, the branch worker can provide them with the proper forms to register, then provide additional information on how to file that paperwork with the local voter registration office. It is up to the individual to get those materials to the proper authorities.

“Of course, this is a positive step forward in encouraging more people to vote, but it can only be described as a small step. A teeny tiny step,” Kersey said. “Consider that in its original form, House Bill 1178 would have enabled a person to automatically register to vote when they got their driver’s license or renewed it. However, the Republicans who control the House Elections and Apportionment Committee would not agree to that move. They wanted it scaled back, and once the Republicans in charge of the Senate Elections Committee were finished, the bill was in the form that appears now.

“The changes outlined in the original bill and the final version already should be a part of state law,” he noted. “We should be actively talking about being able to register to vote on Election Day and voting by mail and having automatic voter registration. None of these concepts are flying with the majority Republicans in either the House or Senate. They have actively opposed them in various forms over the past few years.”

This year, Kersey and other House Democrats attempted to move legislation that would create an independent commission to draw legislative and congressional districts, only to see the move quashed by State Rep. Milo Smith (R-Columbus), chairman of the House Elections Committee.

“Instead, we see them lining up behind HEA 1178 as though it were an earth-shattering move that will immediately draw more Hoosiers to vote,” Kersey said. “I appreciate their support, but we have to do more. It is a disgrace that Indiana consistently ranks among the worst states in the nation in terms of voter turnout. We should be working to correct that. I hope that signing HEA 1178 into law is a step in the right direction toward stronger, more lasting reforms.”