Improving local government, elections

Posted by: Lydia Kirschner  | Tuesday, January 7, 2020 9:36 am

As the 2020 legislative session begins, lawmakers throughout Indiana are working on bills to address a variety of issues impacting our state. This session, I am authoring legislation on several topics, including county commissions and Indiana elections.

County planning commissions are local, elected or appointed government boards. The commission can be in charge of a number of tasks including promoting community development in the county, and recommending regulations and boundaries of zoning districts.

In Indiana, there are certain requirements to be a member of a local plan commission. However, under current law, if one member leaves the commission and the board appoints a new member in their place, the new appointee does not need to fulfill these same requirements. For example, a member of a planning commission may be required to reside within the county they serve in, but if that member were to leave the commission, the person appointed to take their place would not need to live within the county.

Through legislation I am authoring, a person appointed in place of a member who has left must meet the same requirements as a regular commission member. This would ensure each member of local planning commissions throughout the state are qualified and appointed fairly.

In Hoosier elections, there is a voting option called “straight-ticket voting,” which lets a person choose a certain party’s entire slate of candidates by filling out one selection rather than each portion of the ballot. By voting straight-ticket, some miss opportunities to fill out selections of the ballot the straight-ticket option does not affect, like the section for school boards. Straight-ticket voting can also make voters less engaged about the candidates and their views.

For these reasons, I am authoring legislation to eliminate straight-ticket voting. Most states have already done away with this option. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Indiana is only 1 of 7 states allowing straight-ticket voting.

Another bill I am authoring would move elections of city and town offices to even-numbered years in order to increase voter attendance for municipal elections by lining it up with presidential and state office elections. In Henry County, the 2019 November municipal election had less than 11% turnout, where the general election in November of 2018 was over 50%, according to the office of voter registration in Henry County. If enacted, after the next municipal election, office holders would have one, three-year term in order to move these elections to even-numbered years.

By ensuring appointed local officials meet certain requirements, improving voter engagement in elections and increasing turnout on Election Day, our democracy would continue to thrive. For questions or input on these topics or others, please call 317-232-9815 or email



State Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) represents House District 54,

which includes Henry County and portions of Rush and Wayne counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.