With the Indiana Legislature’s adjournment fast approaching, Indiana
Secretary of State Todd Rokita put in a plug for citizens making last-minute
appeals to lawmakers to urge support for several election reform bills.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Chesterton Rotary Club meeting, Rokita touted several
pending proposals, including one that would allow counties to establish Vote
Centers and another that would require local candidates to post financial
disclosure forms online if contributions exceed $10,000.
These proposals are contained in bills that “are on the ropes,” Rokita said,
though he added that he doesn’t know exactly why the bills are in trouble,
since the proposals are neither Democrat nor Republican ideas but efforts to
help keep Indiana competitive. The Legislature is set to adjourn April 29.
Rokita said he’s very proud that Indiana recently celebrated the 200th
birthday of Abraham Lincoln but lamented how “we’re still voting as if he’s
on the ballot” by voting in a precinct system and by comparing voter
signatures in a paper poll book.
One of the election reforms Rokita supports is the voluntary establishment
of Vote Centers, which would replace the traditional method of voting in
precincts by setting up consolidated sites so that people could vote
anywhere in their county. In Porter County, a committee has been formed to
study the idea; Rokita commended Porter County Clerk Pam Fish for her role
in studying the project for this county.
With Indiana’s statewide voter registration system, a vote center could be
established anywhere due to the technology. In the past, each county
maintained its own voter registration list, often in very different ways.
Now, the statewide list allows updated information from multiple
jurisdictions -- voters who die or are convicted of a felony can now be
purged much more easily due to the technology. The statewide list also means
that poll books can go electronic, with voter names and other identifying
information checked electronically instead of through paper books.
Four Indiana counties have been pilot counties for vote centers, and Rokita
said in each one, the costs for running elections have been cut by about
One concern that’s been raised about vote centers locally is that it could
make it more inconvenient for voters, especially older voters accustomed to
voting in the same location. Rokita emphasized the importance of keeping
vote centers optional only, with each county deciding for itself if the
consolidation would work for them. But he also said that the pilot counties
have seen no problems with voter confusion or inconvenience due to the new
centers. He also noted that voters would still have the option of casting an
absentee or early vote.
Rokita also put in a plug for a legislative measure that would allow voters
to make changes to their registration online. If voters can make these
changes themselves, he said, it would cut down on the work involved at the
He also urged support for a proposal requiring online financial campaign
reporting for local candidates if their contributions exceed $10,000. He
noted that this reporting requirement already exists for state officials.
When asked about election changes that he can foresee in the future, Rokita
noted that Indiana handled about 3,000 ballots via e-mail from troops
overseas in the last election. He said he can envision Internet voting
becoming more common, but added that as long as election officials require a
paper trail for ballots, all-Internet voting would be impossible.
Rokita also pitched his office’s “Donate for Democracy” project, in which
poll workers can give up their normal election-day pay by donating it to a
charity of their choice.
Rokita, a Munster native, said he travels to every county in Indiana at
least once per year. He says he does so because of his desire to talk with
community leaders about what he wants to accomplish in the 20 months
remaining in his term. With so much still to do, 20 months “might as well be
tomorrow,” he said.
Rokita emphasized that the Rotarians are indeed community leaders, part of
the small percentage of the populace interested in civic duty. “You’re
needed,” he said.