Bad actors, bad blood and bad technology are huffing and puffing at election doors in Indiana and across the nation.
In February a U.S. intelligence report confirmed that Russia is interfering in U.S. primaries, reportedly to the benefit of President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential nominee.
Meanwhile, shock waves ripple from the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses debacle, where confusion caused by an app, computers and human errors delayed final results and generated cynicism about the credibility of the contest.
Some voting machines in Los Angeles County broke and other problems developed as a new election system had its first test in California. Otherwise there were few reports of significant problems at the polls in 14 states on Super Tuesday, encouraging hopefulness for a clean May 5 primary in Indiana.
The state’s voter portal page inspires confidence in the security and integrity of elections, citing more than a dozen tools applied to assure that voting machines, poll sites and result tabulation are all safe and sound.
Still, the 2020 General Assembly’s unwillingness to inject moderate reform into Indiana elections leaves room for skepticism.
House Republicans turned back a Democratic attempt to earmark an additional $10 million this year for voting machine upgrades to produce paper trails backing up electronic tabulation of votes. Machines in more than half of the state’s 92 counties don’t have that capability.
The Republican majority at the Statehouse stuck to a measure passed last year that devoted an initial $10 million to the purpose and set a goal of having paper backups on voting machines statewide by 2030. The initial investment will cover only about 10% of machines across Indiana.
Another bill, seeking to extend Election Day voting hours to 8 p.m., died in committee, leaving the state as one of just three with polls that close as early as 6 p.m.
And legislation to remove the straight-party option from Indiana ballots failed, keeping Hoosiers in the company of just six other states that still offer voters that choice.
While a do-nothing Legislature risks the danger of standing still, perhaps the top threat to elections across the state is the potential failure of local officials. Shortcomings most often spring from poor communication or failure to train poll workers properly.
The bad blood of partisanship can further infect elections, as it did in Porter County in 2018 when a host of problems led to delayed vote tallies. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson cited the nefarious forces of “personality conflicts, vindictive behavior and personal pride” among local voting officials.
A record-breaking turnout of Indiana’s 4.6 million registered votes in November is probable, making it more important than ever that the state and its counties are vigilant against the bad blood, bad actors and bad technology huffing and puffing to blow down the doors of elections in Indiana.