INDIANAPOLIS — Two of the people vying to be in charge of Indiana's elections as Secretary of State debated Monday night about the best ways to run those elections and how to protect them.
"Our core focus has to be on election integrity,” said Libertarian candidate Jeffrey Maurer.
"It is the Secretary of State's job to make sure we are educating the population as to our process and fighting this age of disinformation,” said Democratic candidate Destiny Scott-Wells.
The two faced off in an hourlong televised debate organized by the League of Women Voters of Muncie-Delaware County.
The Republican candidate, Diego Morales, did not take part. According to the debate organizers, they invited him, but he never responded. His absence became a talking point.
"Healthy democracies need healthy debate, and candidates who refuse to debate are assuming they have won the election and they don't even need to listen to you,” Maurer said.
Morales' campaign issued a statement about not taking part in the debate, which said “My sole focus is on traveling to all 92 Indiana counties, visiting with Hoosiers to earn their vote this November. I have participated in radio, print, and TV interviews and will continue to do so."
The debate moderator asked candidates if they thought President Joe Biden was elected fairly in 2020. Both Wells and Maurer said they did.
During Morales' campaign, there have been questions about his position on claims surrounding the legitimacy of the 2020 election, but Monday, he wasn't there to clarify his position.
Meanwhile, Wells and Maurer debated on how to ensure election integrity.
"We need a complete and independent audit of all 92 counties before the elections are certified. Those tools will give us the confidence to avoid the concerns of 2020,” Maurer said.
Wells pushed back on the idea of such a measure.
"If there are any contested races, a candidate just has to ask for a recount. We already have safeguards, and we don't need 92 county audits,” Wells said.
Both candidates had ideas on increasing voter turnout.
"We need your input for our shared future, and that means having more options and more competition on your ballot. We can't sustain the two-party system,” Maurer said.
"We need to work toward nonpartisan redistricting in 2031 to just begin to address our voter turnout problem,” Wells said, who believes voters don’t turn out to cast ballots in races they don’t believe will be competitive in a state that’s controlled by a Republican supermajority.
There are also two write-in candidates running for Indiana Secretary of State, Andrew Straw with the Disability Party and David Wetterer with the Green Party.
Wetterer stood outside WFYI’s studios on Monday, holding a sign that said, “Let him debate.” Wetterer said he was not invited to debate by the the League of Women Voters of Muncie-Delaware County.
A spokesperson for the group issued a statement that said: “The league, as policy, does not include write-in candidates for any candidate debates or forums. The Green Party and the Disability Party both have write-in candidates for Indiana Secretary of State. That said, we support changing the very restrictive laws in Indiana that govern how 3rd party candidates can get on the ballot. The Libertarian candidate has met that high threshold and is on the ballot so will be included in the debate.”
When presented with that position, Wetterer said, “That’s their point of view. My point of view is that it’s censoring democracy. It’s holding people out that deserve to have a voice no matter what, and if I’m a certified write-in candidate and the secretary of state is going to count my votes, then I deserve to be heard.”