Secretary of State Todd Rokita Introduces New Election Reform Law

Contact: Cam Savage

Secretary of State Todd Rokita Introduces New Election Reform Law
Legislation was Rokita's Number One Priority of Legislative Session

Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Secretary of State Rokita today introduced the Implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the recently passed legislation that will guide Indiana's election reform efforts over the next five years and beyond.

Public Law 209-2003, which was signed into law last week, makes revolutionary changes to Indiana's election practices and addresses federal election guidelines passed by Congress after the 2000 Election.

"Senate Bill 268 was my number one priority during this legislative session, and I am very pleased that our legislators, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support, passed what will be landmark election reform legislation for Indiana," Rokita said.

Under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2002, many new safeguards have been added to the election process to guarantee the rights of eligible persons to vote and to combat election fraud.

Indiana's implementation of HAVA began when, before the start of the 2003 Legislative session, Secretary Rokita asked Senator Becky Skillman (R-Bedford) to carry the legislation that would become Public Law 209-2003.

Highlights of the Implementation of the Help America Vote Act

The provisions in SEA 268 will have a major impact on the way elections are administered in Indiana. Under the new law, counties will phase-out the use of lever machines and punch card voting systems by January 1, 2006 with the help of federal funding.

Last week, Indiana received an initial payment of $5,000,000 from the federal government to improve election administration. A portion of those funds could be used to purchase new voting systems. Rokita estimates that Indiana could receive as much as $55,000,000 in federal dollars over the next few years to update voting systems and fully implement HAVA.

Public Law 209-2003 also establishes a statewide voter registration system that permits counties to identify potential duplicate registrations in other counties and coordinate with the departments of correction and health to remove ineligible voters.

"This legislation means that when Hoosiers go to cast their vote, they'll be doing so on state of the art machines designed to simplify the process and ensure that every vote counts. Additionally, for the first time, election officials in Indiana will have the ability to better manage the voter rolls and be able to guarantee that only those persons eligible will be able to cast votes on Election Day," Rokita said.

The new law also expands procedures for the casting of "provisional ballots." Provisional ballots ensure that voters will not be turned away at their polling place without having cast a ballot. Voters who cast provisional ballots will now be able to find out whether their vote was counted, and if not, why.

The passage of Public Law 209-2003 will allow the Secretary of State to bring federal funds to Indiana to make voting systems more accessible to voters with disabilities, to provide information about accessibility to voters with disabilities and to train poll workers to promote access for voters with disabilities. The law also permits county election boards to employ students sixteen and older as nonpartisan election assistants or poll workers.

"I have long advocated allowing students of high school age to serve as election board workers. The participation of students in the election process will not only give our young people a practical lesson in the workings of Democracy, but will also foster a sense of citizen involvement in these future voters," Rokita said.

Secretary Rokita and the Vote Indiana Team, a group of 28 individuals appointed earlier this year by Secretary Rokita, have been working to create a comprehensive blueprint for Indiana election reforms.

Information regarding the work of the Vote Indiana Team.