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: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

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