INDIANAPOLIS | Democrat Beth White vowed Monday to improve Indiana's dismal voter turnout record if she is elected secretary of state next year.
"Civic engagement is the bedrock of our democracy," White said. "We cannot have elections where the people who are elected to govern do not have a mandate from the people who elected them. That is dangerous to our democracy, and it needs to change."
Just 58 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2012 elections, down from 62 percent in 2008. Indiana voter turnout was 41 percent in the 2010 midterm elections, nearly worst in the nation.
White said strict voter ID requirements and limited early-voting opportunities enacted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and enforced by Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson are to blame.
"They don't want more and new and young people to be involved in the process," White said.
If given the chance, White would get rid of Indiana's voter ID mandate. But since that requires an unlikely change in state law, she promised, if elected, to do everything she can to help Hoosiers work within the system by promoting participation.
"Why are we not focusing on making voting work for the people as opposed to the restrictions that we are putting into place?" she asked.
The two-term Marion County clerk launched her bid for the Democratic secretary of state nomination amid several dozen cheering supporters outside the Statehouse.
She said her experience as the chief election official in Indianapolis, the nation's 13th most populous city, qualifies her to become secretary of state, Indiana's top elections official. The secretary of state also oversees business registrations, regulates auto dealers and licenses stockbrokers.
White likely will face Lawson in the Nov. 4, 2014, general election. She is not related to Republican Charlie White, the most recently elected secretary of state, who Lawson replaced after he was removed from office in 2011 on conviction of felony voter fraud.