Indiana Secretary of State visits university to talk voting laws, importance

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson visited the university Oct. 20 to speak to faculty, staff and students about updates on voting laws and the importance of voting.

The Secretary of State is the Chief Elections Officer for the state, which means they ensure the integrity of all state elections by safeguarding against hackers and voter fraud.

Lawson, who has served as Indiana Secretary of State since 2012, said she realizes that print ballots are a thing of the past and she only received about 50 print ballots in last year’s election.

“Hoosiers have embraced the technology of online voter registration,” she said.

She said over 100,000 voters have registered online for the upcoming elections Nov. 8, including 52,250 people in a one-day period.

Lawson said voter security is also an important issue facing Indiana voters.

She referenced the Help America Vote Act , which reforms aspects of voting by budgeting billions of dollars to improve elections equipment and establish election standards.

The election equipment is tested by the Voting System Technical Oversight Program , which is a non-partisan organization based at Ball State University.

The VSTOP team advises the Indiana Secretary of State and the Indiana Election Commission on the certification of voting machines and electronic poll books in Indiana.

“I think it was really good to hear, especially on the security of our voting machines that those have been audited and Indiana is one of the top states in terms of our security,” president of the Master of Public Administration Society Travis Dickison said.

The voting machines are not online, but connected to each other.

“I thought it was really interesting that they’re not connected to the internet,” he said. “I always assumed that it was all connected and so it was really nice to know the security of all that.”

Lawson said there has been a problem with online voter registrations as first names and birth dates of voters were changed without their knowledge.

She said that she has told voters that it is her top priority to make sure they are still eligible to vote on election day.

“As Indiana’s Chief Elections Officer, I have a duty to ensure these voters are not disenfranchised because they think they are no longer registered,” she said.

Lawson said the case is currently in the hands of the state police.

“With these facts in mind, for anyone to suggest I am playing politics with voter registration is absurd,” she said.

Lawson also stressed the importance voting makes in the state and the country.

She told a story about the Harry Burns, a Tennessee state legislator who changed his vote that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the United States.

“If you look at the lower ballot races, if you don’t go out and vote for your congressman, that congressman is going to vote on a law and that law will have an impact on you later on,” Dickison said. “You might not realize it, but there’s going to be a law that affects you later on or a tax that will be increased or some sort of benefit that you will stop receiving that people don’t think about in the long term, but if you consider that this stuff happens then you can appreciate how one vote is really important.”

There are two types of voting models in Indiana: precinct voting and voting centers.

Lawson said she has worked to switch all counties from the precinct voting model to the voting center model.

She has been an advocate of voting centers since authoring legislation as a state senator in 2010 to allow any county in Indiana to move to the voting center model.

Twenty- six of Indiana’s 92 counties have made the switch to voting centers since 2010, including Vanderburgh County.

The county has 136 precincts, but now voting only takes place at the 22 voting centers around the county.