Indiana forecasts 10-fold jump for mail-in voting

Indiana election officials are bracing for perhaps 10 times more mail-in ballots for this fall’s election than four years ago.

Posted: Aug 30, 2020 5:09 PM
Updated: Aug 30, 2020 5:09 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana election officials are bracing for perhaps 10 times more mail-in ballots for this fall’s election than four years ago.

Officials expect 1.3 million to 1.8 million mailed ballots, which would mean more than half of Indiana’s voters might choose that option rather than heading to polling sites for the Nov. 3 election amid coronavirus exposure worries.

As Republican state leaders resist calls for allowing no-excuse mail-in voting as Indiana did for the spring primary, top election officials are urging voters to act early following U.S. Postal Service warnings that can’t guarantee ballots requested near the state’s deadline will be delivered on time to county election offices.

More than 100,000 Indiana voters have already requested mail ballots some nine weeks ahead of Election Day, compared with about 155,000 total such ballots cast for the 2016 presidential election, according to the Indiana secretary of state’s office, which oversees state election policy. About half of the ballots in Indiana’s June primary were cast by mail.

Local election offices are gearing up to start sending out the general election ballots starting in early September, said Sara Arnold, president of the Indiana county clerks association.

“They are stamping the envelopes, stuffing what they’re able to, doing all they can already just to get prepared,” said Arnold, who is the clerk in southern Indiana’s Spencer County.

Indiana allows people to vote by mail if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older or being absent from their home counties on Election Day. The mail-in balloting estimates are based on the 2016 election turnout of 2.8 million voters and the percentage of votes submitted by mail for this spring’s primary, when all voters were allowed to vote by mail because of virus concerns, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other GOP leaders have turned aside appeals from Democrats and voting rights groups to lift Indiana’s mail-in ballot limits for the November election.

Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson said while being confined at home because of illness is a legitimate excuse for a mail-in ballot, state law doesn’t extend that to instances of COVID-19 exposure fears.

“If you’re confined to your home because you have a condition that puts you at high risk and you are self-isolating, you may qualify to vote absentee by mail,” Lawson said. “If you’re still going to the grocery store and running other errands, you’re not confined to your home.”

Voting rights groups Common Cause Indiana and Indiana Vote By Mail have separately sued the state over the mail-in balloting limits and the noon Election Day deadline for ballots to arrive in election offices.

Leaders of both groups said they’ve heard from people concerned about possibly facing long lines and poorly ventilated polling sites if they must vote in person despite the coronavirus outbreak, which is blamed for more than 3,200 deaths around the state since mid-March.

Barbara Tully, president of Indiana Vote By Mail, said she considered Lawson’s defense of the mail balloting limits “flippant” and questioned why Indiana is among about a half dozen states not allowing residents to use mail ballots this year without citing a specific excuse.

“Why are they clinging onto this?” Tully said. “I’ve not seen the governor or secretary of state give any clear explanation for why they are clinging onto those excuses.”

Lawson and Holcomb have said voters worried about Election Day lines have the option of early in-person voting at county clerk offices starting Oct. 6 and that protective equipment and cleaning supplies are being supplied by the state for poll workers and voting equipment.

Lawson encouraged those who want to vote by mail to submit their ballot requests to their county election offices or the state’s Indianavoters.com online portal well before the Oct. 22 deadline.

“My sage advice would be don’t wait,” Lawson said. “If you know you’re going to vote by mail, apply today.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 110759

Reported Deaths: 3503
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20645758
Lake10172317
Elkhart6321108
St. Joseph600797
Allen5921200
Hamilton4646109
Vanderburgh327129
Hendricks2638121
Monroe236836
Johnson2250122
Tippecanoe218413
Clark210156
Porter203344
Cass19279
Delaware184261
Vigo175722
Madison156575
LaPorte135637
Floyd130061
Howard127063
Kosciusko118717
Bartholomew114557
Warrick111935
Marshall98024
Boone94446
Dubois94018
Hancock90042
Noble87632
Grant86733
Henry75424
Wayne73714
Jackson7319
Morgan69438
Shelby66329
Daviess63927
LaGrange62911
Dearborn62128
Clinton59112
Harrison55624
Putnam5209
Montgomery50221
Lawrence50028
White47814
Knox4769
Gibson4644
Decatur45339
DeKalb44211
Miami4223
Fayette41713
Greene41535
Jasper3802
Steuben3647
Scott35310
Sullivan32812
Jennings30812
Posey2940
Franklin29325
Clay2925
Orange28224
Ripley2788
Carroll26913
Wabash2608
Washington2571
Starke2487
Wells2472
Whitley2476
Adams2403
Jefferson2403
Fulton2302
Huntington2173
Spencer2154
Tipton21522
Randolph2067
Perry20213
Newton17011
Jay1680
Owen1641
Martin1590
Rush1494
Pike1361
Vermillion1250
Fountain1152
Blackford1142
Pulaski1131
Crawford1020
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
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