Listening tour

Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, left, poses with Orange County Clerk of the Circuit Court Elizabeth Jones during Sullivan’s 92-county listening tour.

Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan was in Orange County this month to meet with Orange County Clerk of the Circuit Court Elizabeth Jones. Sullivan explained the visit is part of her 92-county listening tour during 2021, which did not have any elections statewide.

“We have the bandwidth to be able to meet in person and discuss 2020’s election and all that we learned by putting a very successful election on during a pandemic,” said Sullivan. They also spoke about voter list maintenance and preparation for the 2022 elections.

Sullivan listened to insights from Jones on more ways to collaborate between the state and local level; especially during next year’s elections and the implementation of the state’s voter verified paper trail. This is to increase voter’s confidence in the election process.

Sullivan said Indiana had the highest voter turnout since 1992 with 65% of the state vote. There were no recounts in any of the counties for state election. Sullivan added that they had implemented cyber security before the election.

“But now, preparing for 2022, the highest priority is to increase voter confidence before we go into election season,” said Sullivan. She stated Indiana has a generous election season with 29 days to vote and she wants to continue increase voter turnout by increasing voter knowledge of the process. This is part of why Sullivan is visiting county clerks — so they collaborate and learn what local clerks are hearing from their constituents.

This, Sullivan explained, will allow her office to outreach before the 2022 elections and educate voters on the process and securities.

“We hope to have just as high a turnout as in 2020,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan stated that Indiana has had a Voter ID law in place for the past 15 years to improve election security. There is also cybersecurity funded at the state level that has been in place since 2019.

VSTOP, an independent group at Ball State University continues to certify Indiana’s election equipment. VSTOP also advised the Indiana Secretary of State and the Indiana Election Commission on the certification of voting machines and election poll books in the state. According to Sullivan’s office, VSTOP helped pioneer first-in-the-nation legislation authorizing the certification and testing of electronic poll books before they are permitted to be used in elections in Indiana. The project also entails the creation of a database containing all voting machines used in Indiana, as well as a report on the best practices of poll worker training.

“Not many states have such a strong certification process from an independent organization,” said Sullivan. She added Indiana continues to have public hearing dates where voters can come and use the equipment before an election

Sullivan said they are implementing more of the Verified Voter Paper Audit Trail for voting machines. It will print the voter’s completed ballot and they can review it and make sure everything is correct before they leave the polling location. The paper, which does not have the voter’s name, is then inserted into the vote counting mechanism.

“It increases confidence because you’re able to verify your vote that you just had on an electronic piece of equipment with a piece of paper and watch it be tabulated,” said Sullivan. If a mistake is noticed in the paper trail, it can be corrected before the voter leaves the polling location. This can include mistakes made by the voter, such as accidentally selecting the wrong candidate.

Sullivan said her office will also be increasing the number of audits performed after the election. During the 2020 election, 13 audits were performed. She said they all came back with the same results for federal, state and local races as reported on election night.

he said she will ask the legislature when it reconvenes in January to allow them to double the number of audits her office can perform after the 2022 and 2024 elections.

“The top priority of my office is election security and integrity,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan also spoke about other duties of the office of Secretary of State, which includes business services division, auto dealers division and securities division. Her office recently completed an investigation into an investment scheme that led to a successful prosecution of David M. Betner for multiply felony counts of fraud.

“My office, through the Securities Division, works to protect your hard-earned money,” said Sullivan. “Hoosiers can check with our office to see if the business or individual seeking investment is properly registered, and you can contact us if anything seems suspicious.”

Documents filed in the case allege Betner committed fraud in offering and selling securities by soliciting over $383,000 in investments from six people to fund Darepoint, LLC, a company he claimed was designing a social media app. When investors grew anxious, Betner claimed the company was on the verge of being purchased by Facebook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Securities investigators found Betner spent investors’ money on personal expenses. The allegations also stated that Betner failed to inform investors of his criminal history, including prior felony convictions for forgery and theft.

Betner pled guilty to one count of corrupt business influence, six counts of fraud in the offer or sale of a security, all level 5 felonies, and one count of check deception, a level 6 felony.

The plea agreement carries a possible maximum sentence of twelve years. Betner was ordered to pay $386,470 in restitution to seven individuals. Betner is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 14, 2022.

“Our securities division is doing an amazing job protecting Hoosiers and ensuring that the predators that are out there trying to increase creative ways in which they are preying on Hoosiers during a financially hardship time after a pandemic,” said Sullivan.

The Secretary of States Office has a restitution fund that victims can use to get some of those fraudulent investments back. It can be accessed at https://securities.sos.in.gov/.