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.

Confirmed Cases: 47432

Reported Deaths: 2687
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11546683
Lake5104242
Elkhart321144
Allen2737129
St. Joseph190866
Cass16389
Hamilton1538100
Hendricks1390100
Johnson1256118
Porter72037
Tippecanoe6948
Madison65564
Clark64044
Bartholomew58244
Howard56557
LaPorte56326
Kosciusko5354
Vanderburgh5026
Marshall4823
Jackson4693
Noble46928
LaGrange4677
Hancock44035
Boone43743
Delaware43150
Shelby42325
Floyd37144
Morgan32731
Montgomery29320
Grant29126
Clinton2882
Monroe27628
Dubois2666
White26010
Henry25815
Decatur24932
Lawrence24225
Vigo2318
Dearborn22823
Harrison21222
Warrick21229
Greene18532
Miami1822
Jennings17411
Putnam1688
DeKalb1604
Scott1607
Daviess14216
Orange13623
Wayne1366
Steuben1282
Perry1279
Franklin1248
Ripley1157
Jasper1142
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette987
Newton9810
Starke923
Whitley905
Randolph784
Huntington742
Jefferson722
Wells711
Fulton691
Jay680
Washington681
Gibson672
Knox640
Pulaski641
Clay604
Rush563
Adams501
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown381
Posey380
Blackford372
Spencer371
Crawford300
Fountain302
Tipton301
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike100
Unassigned0193

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