Virus prompts Indiana Democrats to online state convention

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Democratic Party announced plans Tuesday to switch to a virtual state convention because of the coronavirus outbreak, and more talks are underway among political leaders about whether to make more changes to how voters cast their ballots this year.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 8:57 AM
Updated: Apr 15, 2020 2:53 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Democratic Party announced plans Tuesday to switch to a virtual state convention because of the coronavirus outbreak, and more talks are underway among political leaders about whether to make more changes to how voters cast their ballots this year.

The Democratic decision concerning the June convention comes after state Republican and Democratic party leaders agreed last month with GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb to delay Indiana’s primary election from its scheduled May 5 date until June 2. All voters are also being given the option of submitting mail-in primary ballots as state officials lifted all previously required excuses.

State Democratic Chairman John Zody said switching to an online convention was the “safest way” to bring together the party’s some 2,500 delegates. Those delegates will vote by mail-in ballots for the party’s contested attorney general nomination.

The state election commission is scheduled to meet on April 22 and could discuss adopting an entirely vote-by-mail primary. The COVID-19 illness has killed nearly 400 people in Indiana over the past month and led to a statewide stay-at-home order.

State election officials have said they still plan sites for early in-person voting in all 92 counties and to have polling locations open on the day of the primary.

Zody said Democratic and Republican leaders were discussing how to conduct the primary and that county officials need directions soon.

“We still believe that vote by mail is the safest and best option,” Zody said. “But short of that we are looking at what other ways we can accommodate in-person voting.”

Republican Party leaders are still planning to hold their convention in Indianapolis on June 20, party spokesman Jake Oakman said.

“However, party leadership is discussing contingency plans should we need to make changes,” said Oakman, who declined to comment about possible primary election changes.

The contentious fight over holding Wisconsin’s primary last week symbolized what could become a high-stakes, state-by-state legal fight over how voters can safely cast their ballots if the coronavirus outbreak persists into the November election. Democrats are arguing for states to be ready to shift to much greater use of absentee and mailed ballots, while Republicans are raising the specter that such elections could lead to increased fraud.

The Democratic National Convention has been pushed back from mid-July until August, but Joe Biden has said an online convention might be necessary.

Holcomb said Monday he was in ongoing talks with Republican and Democratic leaders on how to proceed but didn’t commit to any particular actions.

“My standard is our elections need to be safe and they need to be secure,” the governor said. “We want to make sure that the steps we take set the right precedent.”

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. State legislative seats and county offices are also on the primary ballot.

The Democratic and Republican state delegates will decide contested races for the Indiana attorney general nominations.

Two Republicans are challenging Attorney General Curtis Hill’s re-election bid as he awaits a decision from the state Supreme Court over whether he’ll face disciplinary action over allegations that he drunkenly groped four women.

Both Democratic attorney general candidates — State Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes and former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel — said they supported their party’s switch to mail-in balloting for their race. Health care business executive Woody Myers is unopposed in the primary for the party’s gubernatorial nomination and is expected to pick his running mate.

Weinzapfel said steps should be taken now to modify the November election in order protect both public health and voting rights.

“I think people are still going to be concerned about their health,” Weinzapfel said. It’s going to take months of planning in order to do a vote by mail election in November, but I think we have to start taking those steps today.”

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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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