Indiana voters shifting to mail-in ballots for primary

Many of Indiana’s voters have shifted over the past decade to casting ballots days or weeks ahead of Election Day rather than standing in line at their neighborhood polling site on that day.

Posted: May 11, 2020 9:05 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Many of Indiana’s voters have shifted over the past decade to casting ballots days or weeks ahead of Election Day rather than standing in line at their neighborhood polling site on that day.

The coronavirus outbreak is causing what could become an even bigger shift toward mail-in ballots for Indiana’s upcoming primary election that’s been delayed until June 2.

Election officials and state political leaders are encouraging mail-in voting as a way to protect poll workers and voters from possible COVID-19 exposure even as plans still call for opening in-person voting sites on primary day.

Here are some things to know for this year’s primary:

MAIL-IN VOTING

Indiana is among several states that have delayed primaries and shifted to voting by mail. Ohio saw most ballots cast by mail for its April 28 primary and had polling sites open, but didn’t experience troubles like Wisconsin last month, when voters were forced to overlook social distancing guidelines to stand in long lines.

Along with delaying Indiana’s primary by four weeks, state officials also suspended the rules limiting who can request mail-in ballots. That allows all voters to cast ballots by mail, but most will first have to submit an application to their county election office by nearly two weeks ahead of the primary.

Most voters haven't followed the steps for obtaining a mail-in ballot since the vast majority of Indiana’s ballots have always been cast in person either at early voting sites or on election day, said Barbara Tully, president of the advocacy group Indiana Vote By Mail.

“That’s a cumbersome process for voters to get their heads around, ‘You’ve got to do this by this date and then we’ll send your ballot,’” Tully said. “It is not an easy, very voter-centric process, overall.”

Indianapolis election officials decided to mail absentee ballot applications to all the city’s registered voters. State Republican officials rejected a push from Democrats to do so statewide, citing cost concerns.

VOTER DEADLINES

The state has established an online ballot application available at Indianavoters.com, or application forms can be requested from county election offices.

Requests for a mail-in ballot, technically known as absentee voting by mail, must be received by county election offices no later than May 21.

Election officials will then mail a blank ballot to voters, who then must mail them back at least several days ahead of June 2, as state law requires them to arrive at county election offices by noon that day. The only exceptions are for military and overseas voters.

BIG JUMP

Nearly 225,000 Indiana voters had already requested mail-in ballots by Wednesday, according to the state election division. That is already almost five times more than the some 48,000 total mail-in ballots cast for the 2016 primary.

Spencer County Clerk Sara Arnold, president of the Indiana county clerks association, said there’s no way yet to anticipate how many people will end up voting by mail since the situation is so unique.

Indiana has no challenged races for statewide elected offices in this year’s primary although multiple candidates are seeking nominations for the congressional seats being given up by Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky and Republican Rep. Susan Brooks. Many state legislative seats and county offices are also on the primary ballot.

OTHER VOTING CHANGES

Indiana’s in-person voting options are being significantly scaled back.

Each county is required to allow early in-person voting, but those locations will only be open May 26 until noon June 1. That seven-day period compares to the monthlong time early voting has typically been available.

Fewer sites for early voting and primary day voting will be available in many counties, some of which are looking at different venues in consideration of coronavirus concerns.

Officials in St. Joseph County, which includes South Bend, are planning to cut its normal 120 polling sites to 12 for primary day. Southwestern Indiana’s Knox County will set up a tent on the courthouse lawn in Vincennes for early voting to avoid people needing to go inside.

Rural southern Indiana’s Spencer County is going from 14 polling sites to seven on primary day and moving early voting to the county’s 4-H fairgrounds.

“With moving it to a large building with better social distancing, I think it will be fine,” Arnold said.

COME NOVEMBER?

Indiana hasn’t made any changes yet for the November general election, although governors in some other states have suggested they would consider moving to an all-mail voting system. Polling suggests that Democrats are now more in favor than Republicans of their states conducting elections exclusively by mail, a move opposed by President Donald Trump.

Tully’s group, Indiana Vote By Mail, has filed a federal lawsuit against state officials seeking to extend the primary’s no-excuse mail-in balloting to the November election. Tully said she expects many people will still have concerns about the coronavirus in the fall and preparations should be made far ahead of presidential election voting.

“I’m not saying do away with polling places, I’m saying give voters options,” Tully said. “If you want to vote from home you should be able to have the option to do that without having to provide an excuse. And fear for your health is not one of the legitimate excuses on the list on the absentee ballot application.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1130719

Reported Deaths: 17736
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1468762242
Lake732391255
Allen68004883
Hamilton51739488
St. Joseph50459650
Elkhart40619547
Vanderburgh34963497
Tippecanoe31212276
Johnson27963467
Hendricks26585385
Porter25969387
Madison21318457
Clark20392279
Vigo19244309
LaPorte17405261
Delaware17004303
Howard16942315
Monroe16794220
Kosciusko14447167
Hancock13259186
Bartholomew13180191
Warrick12320190
Wayne12200269
Grant12181247
Floyd12096226
Morgan10552192
Boone9966124
Noble9429123
Marshall9295147
Henry9268169
Dearborn9053100
Dubois8877140
Shelby8402130
Cass8241128
Lawrence8134185
DeKalb7933109
Jackson779993
Huntington7761116
Montgomery7213123
Gibson7179118
Harrison7031100
Knox6958116
Steuben676589
Miami6675114
Whitley667260
Putnam651286
Clinton633179
Wabash6323111
Jasper622192
Jefferson5946105
Ripley565994
Adams547981
Daviess5124118
Scott498980
Wells4894106
White486069
Greene4749101
Clay468662
Decatur4659110
Fayette462597
Jennings457167
LaGrange432291
Posey412944
Randolph4010107
Washington393656
Fountain382264
Fulton368374
Spencer365147
Starke361474
Owen358577
Sullivan351155
Jay336450
Orange335272
Rush314833
Carroll301639
Franklin295244
Perry292853
Vermillion285958
Tipton253367
Parke251630
Pike251244
Blackford224944
Pulaski213759
Newton185052
Brown179750
Benton171717
Crawford170729
Martin152619
Switzerland149412
Warren137816
Union125116
Ohio92913
Unassigned0599

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