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: 318894

Reported Deaths: 5561
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion43391855
Lake27599462
Allen18363299
Elkhart17474226
St. Joseph17071234
Hamilton13376169
Vanderburgh9839121
Tippecanoe880629
Porter844886
Johnson6556169
Hendricks6267158
Vigo618187
Monroe542850
Clark522877
Madison5153122
Delaware5014103
LaPorte474695
Kosciusko468540
Howard357977
Warrick329872
Floyd324978
Bartholomew323563
Wayne318074
Marshall308146
Cass302631
Grant282050
Noble261546
Hancock260355
Henry252837
Boone248754
Dubois242931
Dearborn222631
Jackson222534
Morgan215543
Knox189720
Shelby189556
Gibson189426
Clinton182121
DeKalb181632
Lawrence179748
Adams171022
Wabash168121
Miami166614
Daviess160144
Steuben150713
Fayette150034
Jasper147413
Montgomery146627
Harrison145524
LaGrange145031
Whitley140814
Ripley138515
Huntington130910
Decatur128243
Wells127930
Putnam127828
White127522
Clay126523
Randolph126121
Posey124116
Jefferson122916
Scott112320
Greene104653
Jay100713
Sullivan99216
Starke94021
Jennings88714
Fulton86419
Spencer8588
Perry83721
Fountain8078
Washington7837
Franklin71327
Carroll69613
Orange69028
Vermillion6444
Owen6317
Tipton58927
Parke5886
Newton56912
Rush5658
Blackford54012
Pike51619
Pulaski41115
Martin3645
Benton3553
Brown3514
Crawford3031
Union2752
Switzerland2605
Warren2542
Ohio2337
Unassigned0266

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