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Indiana Secretary of State debate – minus the Republican – highlights common ground, sharp divides

Side-by-side images of the two candidates for Indiana Secretary of State that participated in a televised debate: at left, Democrat Destiny Wells and, at right, Libertarian Jeff Maurer. Wells is a White woman with long, dark hair, wearing a dark blue top and black pants. Maurer is a White man with dark gray hair, wearing a gray suit, white shirt and yellow tie.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Democrat Destiny Wells, left, and Libertarian Jeff Maurer, were the two candidates for Indiana secretary of state who agreed to participate in a televised debate.

Monday night’s debate between two of Indiana’s candidates for Secretary of State highlighted that Democrat Destiny Wells and Libertarian Jeff Maurer agree on a lot.

But there’s also a sharp divide between the two over the safety and security of Indiana’s elections.

Maurer repeatedly advocated for post-election audits in all 92 counties – Indiana currently does them in 10. He said such audits will help dispel things like the so-called “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged.

“A top to bottom audit of everything that we do – every ballot that comes in, every door that gets locked, every person that sees or touches the election process in one way or another,” Maurer said.

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Maurer called such audits “preventative maintenance” for election systems.

But Wells said forcing county clerks to conduct expensive audits with no evidence that they’re necessary helps perpetuate lies about the election system.

The system, she said, isn’t the problem.

“We have people who are acting irresponsibly, who are power hungry and who can’t accept results because they don’t want to give up power," Wells said. "We have to face that head on and, again, fight it with good information and evidence.”

There wasn’t much discussion of what Maurer called the “800 pound gorilla not in the room” – Republican candidate Diego Morales, who refused to participate in the debate. Morales previously cast baseless doubts on the 2020 election results, though more recently has said he accepts President Joe Biden as the winner.

The areas where Wells and Maurer agreed were numerous. Both want to shine a light on the less-publicized areas of the secretary of state's office: its securities, business services and auto dealer services divisions.

For example, both said they want the office to better serve its customers. Wells said the state should update its online business services portal, while Maurer wants expanded customer service hours. In the auto dealers division, both candidates specifically cited a need to be an honest broker in disagreements between dealers and manufacturers.

On elections, Maurer and Wells both emphasized a need for greater voter outreach to help improve the state's dismal voter turnout record, repeatedly one of the worst in the country. In particular, both candidates say the state should do a better job of engaging young people in the electoral process.

The debate was organized by the League of Women Voters of Indiana and Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.