Daniels vetoes early voting bill sparked by Lake County dispute

2009-05-12T00:00:00Z Daniels vetoes early voting bill sparked by Lake County disputePatrick Guinane
patrick.guinane@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation late Monday allowing Hoosiers to register to vote online, but he vetoed another measure that could have made it easier to vote early.

The Republican governor axed Senate Bill 209, which would have let county election boards establish multiple early voting sites by a majority vote, instead of a unanimous decision. The measure was intended to put to rest a partisan Lake County spat that trudged through a half-dozen courts last fall.

"While this bill contains provisions that would make the act of voting more convenient, it does not contain sufficient safeguards against fraud and abuse and removes long-standing bipartisan checks and balances in the conduct of elections," Daniels said Tuesday in a statement.

One in six Hoosier voters cast ballots prior to Election Day last November, with Lake and Porter counties tallying more than 53,000 absentee and in-person early votes. Each county must operate one early voting center, but the decision to open additional satellite locations must be unanimous.

The Democratic-controlled Lake County elections board deadlocked 3-2 along party lines last fall, but Democrats still opened auxiliary early voting sites in East Chicago, Gary and Hammond. Republicans protested but could not convince a county, state or federal judge to shudder the sites once voting had started.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, worked on SB 209 in the hope that it would head off future early voting disputes. He said having just one early voting site in Crown Point isn't sufficient for Indiana's second most populous county.

"I was trying to correct that situation because I don't think it should be a partisan situation," Smith said. "We should not make it difficult for people to vote. We should make it convenient for people to vote."

Meanwhile, Daniels signed into law House Bill 1346, which authorizes Secretary of State Todd Rokita to begin offering online voter registration in July 2010.

"Because of the technology we have, coupled with our state's photo ID law, we can offer online registration and maintain, even enhance, the integrity of our elections," Rokita, a Munster native, said in a statement.

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