Indiana won't change mail-in ballot deadline despite worries

Indiana’s top election official on Friday rejected a request for extending the deadline for returning mail-in ballots for next week's primary election, despite worries that thousands of them could arrive late and go uncounted.

Posted: May 31, 2020 9:54 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s top election official on Friday rejected a request for extending the deadline for returning mail-in ballots for next week's primary election, despite worries that thousands of them could arrive late and go uncounted.

Some voters scattered around the state have complained about not receiving mail-in ballots that they requested as election officials encouraged voting by mail to lessen the risk of coronavirus exposure Tuesday at in-person polling sites.

State figures show nearly 550,000 voters across Indiana requested mail-in ballots — more than 10 times the number of those ballots cast during the 2016 primary — and more than 300,000 have been returned through Thursday.

Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge, who oversees the election staff in Indianapolis, sent a letter Thursday to state officials asking them to extend the deadline that requires mail-in ballots arrive at county election offices by noon Tuesday while polling sites remain open.

Republican members of the State Election Commission last month blocked a similar request from Democratic members after approving a four-week delay in the primary from its original May 5 date.

Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson said Friday that changing the deadline now “would not be good idea.”

“There are 92 counties in this state, and we cannot change deadlines because somebody is too busy or whether it is lack of preparation,” Lawson said. “The deadlines are there for security and accountability.”

Eldridge, a Democrat, wrote that coronavirus restrictions limited the number of county election staffers who could process some 123,000 mail-in ballot requests, which was 20 times the number the county received for the 2016 primary. Many of those ballots weren’t mailed until late last week, leaving voters little time to receive the ballots and return them.

“In short, this could mean that thousands of ballots will remain uncounted despite the best efforts of both the Marion County Election Board and the voters themselves,” Eldridge wrote.

Lawson recommended those who received a mail-in ballot late or not at all go to an in-person early voting site or a polling location on Tuesday to cast their votes. Lawson said Marion County “worked diligently” to send out ballots.

“I think they made every effort to get them out in the mail, but there are also mail processing that we cannot control,” Lawson said.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb didn't state a position on changing the deadline when asked during his coronavirus briefing Friday but said he felt safe to cast his primary ballot at an in-person voting site.

State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, a candidate in the Republican 5th District congressional primary, sent a letter to Indianapolis officials Thursday saying she was worried about delays in voters receiving mail-in ballots. She urged action so that voters wouldn’t be disenfranchised.

Lake County election board Director Michelle Fajman, who leads the voting process in Indiana’s second-largest county, said some voters always miss the deadline to return mail-in ballots, sometimes by simple procrastination. She said she didn’t favor extending that deadline.

“I think this election has already been extended another month,” Fajman said. “I think it is just a matter of there needs to be an end date.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 749835

Reported Deaths: 13752
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031281779
Lake555181006
Allen41642691
St. Joseph36959564
Hamilton36537416
Elkhart29373459
Tippecanoe22871224
Vanderburgh22544400
Porter19339325
Johnson18412388
Hendricks17594317
Clark13202193
Madison13128344
Vigo12606253
LaPorte12400221
Monroe12175175
Delaware10949198
Howard10270225
Kosciusko9615119
Hancock8556145
Bartholomew8162157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7775180
Grant7230179
Wayne7158201
Boone6922103
Morgan6742141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6208116
Cass5997109
Henry5894108
Dearborn589078
Noble580287
Jackson508774
Shelby500897
Lawrence4735121
Gibson444293
Harrison441073
Clinton440455
DeKalb438985
Montgomery434890
Whitley406042
Huntington402281
Steuben399359
Miami392968
Jasper387054
Knox375790
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346570
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White330853
Daviess3031100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286685
Fayette284864
Posey273735
LaGrange273072
Scott269955
Clay266048
Washington245034
Randolph244683
Jennings235249
Spencer234231
Starke227858
Fountain219147
Sullivan214043
Owen211258
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187037
Rush175726
Vermillion174044
Franklin170235
Tipton166046
Parke149016
Pike138134
Blackford136132
Pulaski120347
Newton113036
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101114
Martin91615
Warren83615
Switzerland8108
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

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