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Indiana Senate

The Senate chamber in the Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — A Hammond lawmaker's plan to boost voter participation by making it easier for Hoosiers to vote by mail has won approval in the Indiana Senate.

Senate Bill 250, sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, eliminates the requirement that voters identify one of 13 excuses for voting absentee by mail, such as being out of town on Election Day, lacking transportation to the polls or observing a religious holiday.

Instead, absentee voting by mail would become similar to early voting, where no excuse is required to fill out your ballot in-person during the month prior to Election Day at the county clerk's office or a satellite voting site.

"With Indiana consistently having some of the worst voter turnout numbers in the country, this bill would allow more Hoosiers to participate in the democratic process," Mrvan said.

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson, a Republican, told senators that the state county clerks association supports moving to no-excuse absentee voting — especially since the excuses only are logged, not actually verified.

Mrvan's proposal, which is co-sponsored by state Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, and the eight other Democrats in the 50-member Senate, passed the chamber with 39 votes in favor and 10 opposed.

Among those voting against the measure was state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell.

It now goes to the Republican-controlled House for a decision on whether to advance the proposal to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature or veto.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.