Brush up on election law before you vote

Did the 119th General Assembly of the State of Indiana effectively quash the right to vote a straight ticket?

I submit that they did. The real question becomes: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The answer depends on whom you are talking to. In doing the research for this column, I learned a lot. I owe a debt of gratitude to speaker of the House, Brian Bosma. I would also like to thank my senator, Sen. Michael Crider, for his input. I also received input from neighbors, colleagues and a good cross-section of the voting public.

Here is what I found out: The Indiana 119th General Assembly did, in effect, pass SEA 61. This bill reformed straight-ticket voting. It was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence on March 21. It is now known as Public Law 21-2016.

The new law could cause some confusion in the upcoming general election. Essentially, voters in November will have to mark choices for candidates in partisan at-large races. If a voter does not mark these additional candidates, no votes will be counted on the ballot for partisan at-large races.

In effect this legislation will change the way you cast your vote. The legislation does retain traditional straight-party- ticket voting, but the caveat is that it uncouples straight–ticket voting from at-large elections. Since there are often multiple candidates running from the same party, it will primarily affect at-large county council, at-large city/town council and at-large township board elections.

Where am I going with this? It has been attributed to former speaker of the House Tip O’Neill that all politics is local. I believe what he was saying is also the intent of this new law. Voters, please do your homework.

Last week the Greenfield Daily Reporter also clarified this law. The key is going to be educating the voter. Kent Fisk had a great comment regarding educating the voters. My research on the subject brought a wide spectrum of opinions to the table. State Sen. Mike Crider supported the bill. He felt that voters should know who they are voting for; he added most do. He also mentioned the public normally interacts with these offices.

I tend to agree. The city council, the township board, etc. — these folk are our neighbors, friends or relatives in many cases. These folk are usually easier to access than the governor or some other state office.

It behooves you to be an informed voter. A former editor of the New Palestine Press questioned why things keep changing. Good point. However, ever since this great nation was founded, we have been a mobile and fluid society. This is especially true in today’s technological world.

I especially enjoyed interviewing Hancock County’s new Democratic Party chairman. His thinking is much like mine. For example, he urged county residents to attend an upcoming election board meeting. He also called for better training of the election workers and better signage at the polling places. My wife suggested that at the front of all voting centers there should be a large sign calling attention to this new law.

While I agree with the Hancock County Democratic chairman, in part, I also feel Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore is doing a good job in this area. Educating the Hancock County voter has been a priority with her. She always needs competent workers, so please get involved with the process. Also, she works within the framework of the State of Indiana Election Board. Connie Lawson, our current Secretary of State, is responsible for overseeing the elections in the state of Indiana.

There are arguments pro and con for this new law.

The weakest argument against the law was advanced by a Bartholomew County Democratic operative. She felt Republicans were trying to disenfranchise non-Republican voters. This has always been a “cop-out.”

You, the voter, need to do some homework on the voting process. People should show picture IDs, and they should also comply with the law. I never said you had to like it, but one must comply.

So where are we going with all this?

First, if you do not like our laws, then by all means, either run for public office or support your candidate with money and shoe leather.

Second, did you know Indiana is one of only nine states that still has straight-ticket voting?

Also, I implore you to get involved in the election process. Become a knowledgeable voter. If you are a candidate, it behooves you to educate the populace.

Last, please exercise your right to vote this fall.

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to