Election commission to decide: Will Indiana adopt only-by-mail voting for June 2 primary?

The COVID-19 pandemic means voting by mail is the safest option for casting a ballot in the June 2 primary, some elected officials are saying. Democratic Party leaders are pushing the vote-by-mail option in the upcoming primary.

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Vote by mail (no-excuse absentee voting) has already been approved as an option for the June 2 primary election in Indiana. On April 22, the state’s election commission will meet and possibly consider a mail-only election.

They’re calling on Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, and the state’s election commission, to order that applications for ballots to be sent to all registered voters.

Holcomb has encouraged voters to use the no-excuse absentee voter option that was created for this year’s primary by the state’s election commission, at a March 25 special meeting.

Even under the no-excuse absentee option, voters have to request that they receive a ballot through an application process. The application form is available online for downloading, but that doesn’t make it accessible to all voters.

On Thursday last week, at his daily press briefing, Holcomb was asked if he would go as far as to support a complete vote-by-mail election structure. That could include sending all registered voters an application for a ballot.

Holcomb didn’t reject the idea out of hand, saying, “This has come up, obviously, and in discussions with the state election commission… [R]ight now I’m waiting for them to make a specific recommendation on how we can safely and securely carry out, not just our June 2,  but our November election.”

Responding to Holcomb’s press briefing comments, Phil Johnson, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party, told The Square Beacon that “[Holcomb] certainly seemed to leave the door open to…an election that would be run mostly by mail,” adding that the Democratic Party believes, “This is ultimately about public safety.”

According to Johnson, in Marion County all voters will be sent an application for an absentee ballot. So in principle, it’s something a county clerk could do, even without a governor’s order.

In a statement released on Friday, Shelli Yoder, candidate in the Democratic Party’s primary for state senate District 40, said Holcomb should use his executive power and the state’s financial reserves to mail every registered voter an absentee ballot application.

Yoder’s statement calls on residents of the district she’s running in to urge Holcomb towards using his executive power that way: “Monroe County residents can join me in calling on Governor Holcomb to take the decisive action we need and deserve…”

Vying with Yoder for the District 40 state senate seat are John Zody and Trent Feuerbach.

Zody told The Square Beacon his campaign is encouraging people to vote by mail. “That’s the method we’re pushing,” Zody said, adding, “We have extra time to do it.” The extra time is the postponement of the primary by 28 days to June 2.

Even if Indiana winds up adopting an almost exclusively vote-by-mail approach to this year’s primary, some accommodation will need to be made for ADA requirements that require access to the polls for the disability community. It’s possible that some type of in-person voting option would be made available,  so that a blind person could use an auto-marking machine, for example.

The postponement of the primary date by four weeks was a decision finalized by the state’s election commission at the same special meeting, on March 25, when the four-member group made no-excuse absentee voting an option.

The election commission’s decision on postponement was in some sense a ratification of a decision made five days earlier by Republican governor Eric Holcomb in consultation with the chairs of the two major parties.

The respective party chairs, Republican Kyle Hupfer and Democrat John Zody, appeared at the press conference announcing the governor’s decision to postpone the primary. That conveyed support for the idea that there’d been a bipartisan consensus on postponement.

Now, according to Democratic Party communications director Phil Johnson, similar consultation is going on between the governor and the two parties about the question of mail-only balloting.

A decision on the balloting structure is expected at a meeting of the election commission currently scheduled for April 22.

The state’s election commission is a four-member group that, under the state statute,  is effectively split 2–2 between Democrats and Republicans.

Monroe County’s board of elections, at its most recent meeting, encouraged people to vote by mail.

The application form, and the ways the application can be submitted, are described on the Election Central website. Email, fax, and regular mail are among the options:

Email: election@co.monroe.in.us
Fax: (812-330-6460)
Mail: Voter Registration, 401 W 7th Street, Suite 100, Bloomington, IN 47404