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Monday, September 29, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Secretary of State challenger wants to make elections more open"

CNHI's Maureen Hayden's Sunday column for the Anderson Herald Bulletin begins:

INDIANAPOLIS — Beth White was ready with a list of election reforms as she faced a press gaggle on the Statehouse steps last week — just 40 days before her race for Secretary of State goes to voters.

“Here’s the issue,” said White, the underdog challenger. “Our elections here in Indiana need to be better, and they need to work better for the people of Indiana.”

The Democrat trained as a lawyer went on to make an eloquent case for early voting, longer poll hours, and a redistricting process free from the taint of partisan politics.

She made her most vigorous argument in defense of democracy.

White said she’s horrified that Indiana is among the worst in the nation for voter turnout. In 2010, the state ranked 48th among the 50 states. This past May, only 13 percent of its registered voters went to the polls for the primary elections — down from 22 percent in 2012.

When questioned by a reporter as to why it matters if the disengaged don’t vote, White shot back, “Because democracy is not a spectator sport.”

Voter turnout, she said, is a measure of the public’s trust in government.

“Democracy only works when the relationship between government and the governed is a symbiotic relationship, when people believe government cares about them and are invested in influencing their government through their vote,” she said.

People who don’t buy into voting don’t buy into government, she argued. She called that “dangerous” given that government calls on citizens to follow laws, send children to school and pay taxes.

Incumbent Secretary of State Connie Lawson speaks, too, about the need for more voter engagement. But she has a harder row to plow.

As a legislator, the Republican Lawson co-authored a controversial voter ID law — among the first in the nation. This past summer, she launched a purge of the voter rolls, prompted by a lawsuit that claimed the state’s voting rolls were filled with dead people and others long gone.

Lawson argues that she’s supported reforms that “makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

White disputes the first half of the premise and calls voter disillusionment “the real crisis.”

Indiana is one of only three states that closes its polls at 6 p.m. on Election Day, which White says keeps too many voters from participating. To those who question the cost of keeping the polls open longer, she responds, “The cost I worry about is what it means for our democracy when so many people don’t vote.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 29, 2014 09:29 AM
Posted to Indiana Government