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3/5/2018 8:02:00 PM
Indiana election reforms approved by Senate die in House

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Two potentially transformative election reforms approved by the Indiana Senate likely will not become law this year after failing to pass the House by Monday's deadline for acting on Senate measures.

Neither Senate Bill 250, authorizing "no excuse" absentee voting, nor Senate Bill 326, establishing standards for legislative redistricting, received formal consideration by the House Elections and Apportionment Committee.

They therefore could not advance for a vote by the full House on whether to send them to the governor. It's possible, though improbable, that the Senate still could force a House vote through the conference committee process.

The House elections committee chairman, state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said each proposal had problems that prompted him to postpone further action.

On "no excuse" absentee voting, sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, Smith said the measure is not needed because no county clerk ever checks whether one of the 13 excuses a voter is required to provide to vote absentee by mail is legitimate.

"I don't think we need to change the law when it's working now," Smith said. "If nobody is being denied, why change it?"

Concerning redistricting, Smith said because a decision on how legislative boundaries must be drawn is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, it would be premature to enact standards for a process that could change significantly before it occurs in 2021.

Smith said he's asked House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to convene this summer a legislative study committee tasked with reviewing the high court's ruling, figuring out how it applies to Indiana and possibly preparing a redistricting standards proposal for lawmakers to consider in 2019.

A third Senate-approved elections measure that also was unable to pass the House, Senate Bill 155, would have counted the absentee ballots submitted by voters who die prior to Election Day.

Currently, those ballots are required to be discarded if election officials are aware of the voter's death.

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• COMMENTARY: Redistricting reform effort will continue in Indiana

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