Chairman, Timothy Maguire, presented a testimony to the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis Friday, March 2, 2018. This committee held three events across the state to discuss the status of voting rights in Indiana and to examine current challenges to voting rights facing diverse communities in Indiana. You can learn more about these events and the Committee from the Press Release PDF (download). It is important to note that the Committee will be accepting written testimony from the public until April 1. Anyone interested should email such comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is the transcript of the presentation given by LPIN Chairman, Timothy Maguire.
“Thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Tim Maguire, and I am chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. As someone who represents thousands of Hoosiers who often feel left out of the political process, I can safely say I bring a unique perspective to this panel. Governing the process of voting is one of the most important duties of our government, and I thank you for giving this important issue your focus.
First the easy stuff.
Voting centers, better access for the poor and disabled, expanded early voting, easier access to absentee voting, better voting hours for working folks, and even letting jailed citizens vote … these are all obvious solutions to a system that has become embarrassingly outdated. So obvious that I’m shocked we even have to debate these issues. Just because our current process worked 100 years ago, is not reason enough to resist changing it. Many citizens are denied the right to vote simply because they cannot get away from their work, something more and more common in our fast-paced economy.
In addition to the important work of informing citizens of the importance of voting, we also need to do a better job of educating citizens about their responsibility to get informed, not only about the issues but about the candidates on the ballot. Too many voters arrive at their polling place unaware of many local races on the ballot, or how those offices affect their lives. Our state and county election boards can make this easy by collecting and making available information beyond just the names and offices on the ballot before election day.
Now the hard stuff.
Gerrymandering. I cannot stress enough how destructive this issue has been on our democratic process. Most citizens today have been disenfranchised, and refrain from participating in the political process, either as a voter or a candidate, because they feel their vote won’t make a difference. And they are not wrong. It is unacceptable to let legislators pick their voters; voters should be the ones picking their legislators. Independent and non-partisan redistricting panels must be granted the authority to redraw lines with no input or approval required from the bodies affected by such changes. The combination of “safe” districts and straight-ticket voting have resulted in seats being filled by longtime crony politicians who feel no pressure to listen to the will of the voters. Many races, in fact, end up remaining unopposed in many elections cycles, as its obvious to the other parties that the race as unwinnable. This literally leaves the voters with no choice, no vote, and no voice in that district. That is not how our republic is supposed to work. I have no faith in the current State House or State Senate to fix this themselves, I fear that they must be forced to change by an outside authority.
Finally, and most importantly to my constituents, I need to address the problems with Indiana election laws. Now, I want to make clear that my friends at the Indiana Election Division have been very easy to work with and apply the law as fairly as they can. It is the laws themselves that they are given by the legislature that I am addressing. Today more than ever, most Americans are unhappy with the offerings of the old parties, yet newer parties and independents find themselves not only left out but discriminated against throughout the political process, whether as a candidate or a voter. The old parties have written the election laws in such a way as to make them the only “Major” parties allowed by law, with all the special privileges that entail, and have even set themselves up with different rules than everyone else, which makes it extremely difficult for any other party to supplant them. Examples include:
1. Indiana taxpayers are required to finance the nomination process for the major parties, known as primaries, while minor parties are left out of that process, and have to organize and self-fund their own nominating conventions.
2. Only major parties are allowed to make appointments to election boards, giving minor parties and independents no voice on how they are governed.
3. The voting histories of each voter are made available; on which is indicated which major party the voter chose during the primary. This gives the major parties information on who their voters are, making it easier to fundraise, GOTV, and even recruit candidates. Since minor parties are not allowed into the primary, no information about their supporters is available, which gives the major parties an unfair advantage. Even the rules governing access to such voter histories are different for major parties than they are for everyone else. I have recently learned that our party will not be allowed access in off years.
Just the complexity of the law has become so convoluted that the average citizen cannot navigate the process of running for office by themselves without incurring fines or even getting kicked off the ballot. Election officials themselves will many times have to research the law just to answer something as simple as when and how something should be filed, and answers will differ from county to county. I have heard comment after comment from citizens that the requirements of being a candidate are just too difficult, and that it’s obvious that the law was designed to discourage everyone except the rich and connected from participating.
Now, you’re here to hear about civil rights as it relates to voting, so why am I going on and on about laws governing new parties and independents. At least a third of all Americans identify as independent. Many more have openly complained about the party they are currently affiliated with, calling for new parties to be formed. If you’re worried about low voter turnout, imagine what effect these laws have on the mind of someone not part of the parties in power.
We are guaranteed the right to assemble and form associations. Yet citizens who are not affiliated with the two groups in power are openly and legally discriminated against during the political process. Government discrimination in any form, including on the basis of political association, should never be allowed in a free society, and never in a country that was founded on the ideals of individualism as our was.
I know this has been a long day for you, and I want to leave plenty of time for further discussion and questions, so I will leave it here. I again thank you for your time and interest in these important matters, and I look forward to your questions.”