(INDIANAPOLIS) — There will be a record number of mail-in ballots in Indiana’s primary on Tuesday. That means we won’t know some of the winners till Thursday or Friday.
More than half-a-million voters requested absentee ballots under one-time rules for the coronavirus pandemic, to minimize the number of people lined up at polling places. Those envelopes have to be opened one at a time, and not until Election Day. Secretary of State Connie Lawson has warned people should expect the count to take two or three days.
Common Cause of Indiana policy director Julia Vaughn says she has faith in election officials conducting an accurate count, but she’s worried people will be suspicious of the delay, especially in what she notes is a highly charged political atmosphere.
California and Arizona conduct their elections entirely by mail, with ballot-counting stretching on for days after the election. Two years ago, late returns tipped the balance in Arizona’s Senate race and several California House races, prompting unsupported charges of fraud from President Trump and other critics. Trump has repeatedly denounced the entire idea of mail-in voting in recent weeks, singling out several states for criticism, though not Indiana.
Vaughn says her concern isn’t about the integrity of the process or the count, but about making sure voters aren’t denied the chance to cast their ballots. She notes several voters have complained they requested a ballot by last week’s deadline and still haven’t received them. And she says by requiring ballots to be returned by mail, the state missed a chance to create a failsafe by setting up dropboxes. If your ballot doesn’t show up till Saturday, it’s not realistic to expect the post office can deliver it to the county clerk by Tuesday’s noon deadline.
Vaughn says the noon deadline itself is problematic, since mail delivery times mean the real deadline is Monday. Voters can hand-deliver their ballots to the clerk’s office, but Vaughn says that defeats the whole purpose of allowing mail-in ballots in the first place.
Common Cause has set up a toll-free hotline for voters who encounter Election Day problems, with particular attention on Hamilton County and northeast Indianapolis, the biggest pools of votes in hotly contested primaries for the seat of retiring Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-5th).