Indiana Committee Approves Election Bill After TBOR Action Testimony
Pictured: TBOR Action President John Pudner at various locations throughout the Indiana State Capitol. Indiana has long been a strong state due to large-scale door-to-door efforts and an email list network built over the past decade. This week, we met with key leaders of the term limits effort, who seven years ago made the state the sixth to call for a convention to reign in state power (top left and bottom right photo). Ironically as we compared notes we suddenly realized that a friend and sometimes friendly debate partner on the air Larry Lessig was featured on the screen at our meeting. The two days in Indiana kicked off Tuesday with a great event (top right) where we networked with one of my former employees from years back - Greg Lannan, who had such energy when we organized door-to-door efforts in Indiana a decade ago that he earned the nickname "Hurricane." Ironically, in 2016, I was having a planning lunch with Lannan not far from the event this year when Greg - as Division Director for Mike Pence - received the phone call that Donald Trump had chosen Pence as his Vice Presidential nominee. On Wednesday morning the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee approved another measure supported by Take Back Our Republican Action on Wednesday, following up on approval of a bill to require Voter ID for absentee voting. Take Back Our Republic Action (www.takebackaction.org) joined Senator James Buck and Brad King, the Co-Director of the Indiana Election Division, in speaking in favor of Senate Bill 106. After hearing their testimony, which countered earlier testimony by three opponents of the bill - Common Cause Indiana, Vote by Mail, and the Indiana League of Women Voters - the bill was approved in only the second bipartisan approval of an election bill in Indiana this year. Common Cause unsuccessfully argued that the bill would not allow local officials to adjust voting rules in cases of, "extreme weather event or local disaster or a global pandemic that would impact the administration of elections." However, I countered that the abuses of local officials in New York and Wisconsin during Covid were the exact reasons Senate Bill 106 was needed - and Indiana should be praised for passing legislation that should be copied in other states to prevent any potential rogue local officials by making up their own election laws. The video of my Wednesday testimony will be posted here on Thursday, and the lightly edited transcript is below: Pudner: Thank you Mr. Chairman. My name is John Pudner and I am President of Take Back our Republic Action. We are based in Milwaukee but have a good membership of several thousand in Indiana and this bill came up and discussions over the last couple weeks and our state members are very supportive of the bill. We formed our group in 2015, after running years of campaign elections, because we already starting to sense a lack of confidence and elections even then, and of course, that's only grown. On February 15th, some of our members, read the story in the Indy Star on this bill and I know it applies particularly to a term limits case, but has broader implications. I would just like to commend the foresight of not letting a precedent like (this local change in election law) be set because I want to give you examples of a couple other states briefly that have let local officials start making decisions that have led to controversies down the road. So I think you're ahead of this one. A couple quick examples starting in Wisconsin in 2020.
When everyone was dealing with the pandemic some local officials started collecting ballots in the parks before the state legislature even allowed voting to start This obviously caused huge back and forth controversy due to thousands of ballots being collected outside of state statutes. It was just an example of what can happen in a state I which there is never a Senate bill 106 to clarify and say, this isn't something you do. And, of course, that made people in other counties angry, because one county was voting weeks before they were allowed to vote. So you can see how that led to some of the things that led to greater controversies in the state.
In New York in 2020, some local officials started allowing people to vote by absentee without an excuse which is against the law in the state of New York just as it is here. You need a reason that you can't get their election day to vote absentee. But in some localities, they started to just allow this to be done and just mark it as even though there was no excuse. The local officials justification was people would want this change in the law anyway, because there was a pandemic. Well, in fact, after this happened, it was interesting. They then went to a state ballot to change the law to allow no excuse absentee balloting, and same-day registration assuming they would be approved - since voters in New York state are on average are a bit more liberal than here is Indiana. But New York voters shocked the officials when they rejected these changes 60%. So you had some local officials who changed the law on their own. Then went back to the voters, to change a statewide law and instead found that the voters condemned what they've done the year before. Just another example of a place where if you had a Senate Bill 106, it would have addressed some of these issues to keep local officials within within the law. I'll give one last example in New Jersey because I saw some of the testimony back on middle February against Senate Bill 106 was local officials needed flexibility because there could be weather issues. And of course I think legislature gives some leeway. But in New Jersey, for example, people forget that in 2012 statewide online voting was suddenly allowed for the presidential because a hurricane had hit them. So yes, there are times something happens. But there was a statewide decision and that's how it should be done. It was an extreme case but I think you can imagine if certain localities just start allowing votes to be emailed in and others didn't in the controversy that could have started. I commend Indiana. There's great support for this particular bill, but I want to add , I think it's even more important then people realize. And maybe at first it appears this bill addresses just this one case on term limits, but it can address much bigger issues that lead.to distrust in election results. We have just been through two elections, we're only 38% believe the president won, so it affects either party. After 2016 and 2020 they're just so many questions now, controversies that I think the more you can nip these things in the bud and the more you add to the confidence of voters. Voters need to know that they're uniform laws. That's the most important thing about election laws because otherwise it can lead to bigger and bigger questions. I want to commend Indiana. We're using this example for other states of how this should be done, and just appreciate the example you've had of this in other election integrity issues.