By Leslie Bonilla Munoz | The Indiana Capital Chronicle
For The Republic
INDIANAPOLIS — The two candidates who participated in an Indiana Secretary of State debate Monday night — Democrat Destiny Wells and Libertarian Jeff Maurer — differed sharply on election security, with divergent viewpoints that led to disparate signature policy stances.
Maurer repeatedly highlighted proposals to print “receipts” for voters and conduct pre-certification audits for all 92 Hoosier counties to boost voter trust in elections, while Wells emphasized her confidence in Indiana’s systems and accused Maurer of perpetuating Trump-esque election fear-mongering.
“I can’t tell you how many of our neighbors I’ve met out campaigning who say, ‘My vote doesn’t count. My vote doesn’t matter. The system is rigged,’” Maurer said. “… Our opportunity here in this election (is) to restore trust in our elections with common sense solutions: receipts and audits.”
Wells said “we must be operating from a fact-based, evidence-based place. Yes, we do have a voter trust problem, but that is because we have been living through the last years of perpetuating a Big Lie. … We can’t further add fuel onto the fire and say that your vote doesn’t matter or count, and that we’re going to have a 92-county audit.”
Maurer said his audit idea would require an independent company contracted by the state to conduct the audits, comparing the task to what large Wall Street companies do quarterly.
Wells said political candidates can already request recounts, demonstrating that Indiana already has “safeguards” in place.
Republican nominee Diego Morales didn’t respond to debate invitations and both candidates lambasted him for not participating.
Wells implied Morales didn’t want to face ongoing controversies regarding work performance, campaign finance, military service, policy reversals and sexual assault allegations.
Maurer said Morales’ absence indicated he was overconfident he would win, and compared him to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
“There’s a candidate who refused to debate in 2000, 2004, 2012 (and) 2018; his name is Vladimir Putin,” Maurer said. “And for candidates who refuse to debate, the company you keep is Vladimir Putin.”
While Maurer stood by Indiana’s voter identification laws, Wells said she’d advocate for policies that ease access to the polls, like longer polling hours, plus “less restrictive” voter registration and mail-in voting laws.
In a post-debate media availability, Maurer said his dual policy proposals aren’t alarmist, but are instead “telling voters that we’re doing everything right.”
“When you maintenance and service your car, you get the oil change before the light comes on. Or you change your brakes before they stop working. So this is good preventative maintenance on our election system,” Maurer told reporters. “… We’re taking proactive steps to anticipate that this could be a problem and we’re going to solve it now before it becomes a real problem.”
Wells, who at the end of the debate called herself the “only pro-democracy candidate on the ballot this year,” urged caution.
“Indiana, I think, is one of about six states that has a specific election denier candidate, and while Jeff may not be an election denier candidate, he is still perpetuating a lot of the falsehoods around the Big Lie,” Wells said. “He is wanting to make a 92-county audit to assure voters that their vote is being counted. I’m here saying your vote has been counted.”
The League of Women Voters of Indiana hosted the debate, moderated by University of Indianapolis professor Laura Merrifield Wilson. It was broadcast by WFYI, local PBS and NPR stations and streamed on WFYI’s webpage, and is available for replay on Youtube.
— The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.