(TERRE HAUTE, Ind.) — Indiana hasn’t ruled out expanding mail-in voting again in the November election. A longtime conservative activist says he has questions about whether it’s legal.
Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, successfully challenged New Mexico’s plans for a mail-in primary, while losing legal challenges in two other states. He didn’t sue in his home state – Bopp says no one asked him. But he calls Indiana’s expanded absentee voting in this month’s primary legally “questionable.” He argues it’s up to legislators to set the rules for absentee voting, not the Indiana Election Commission.
The bipartisan commission unanimously allowed voters to request absentee ballots for the primary for any reason, not just the usual criteria in state law. Secretary of State Connie Lawson and the state Republican and Democratic Party chairmen negotiated the agreement to minimize the number of people crowding into polling places in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Virginia held its presidential primary in March, but holds congressional primaries tomorrow, under rules similar to Indiana’s. Bopp argued unsuccessfully that Virginia was instructing voters to lie by classifying the coronavirus threat as a disability.
Bopp contends mail-in voting is a bad idea even if done legally. He argues it creates opportunities for fraud by removing controls in place at polling places, and can deprive legal voters of the chance to vote if their ballots don’t arrive on time, either at the voter’s residence or when they’re returned to county clerks.
Bopp sued on behalf of Texas-based True the Vote, a conservative voting-watchdog group, in Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico. In Nevada, True the Vote argued sending voters ballot applications was permissible, but that Nevada was inviting fraud by sending actual ballots to all registered voters. A federal judge rejected Bopp’s warnings of fraud as “speculative.”
But the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld Bopp’s argument that officials had improperly bypassed the legislature to ask the court to set rules for its June 2 primary.
Indiana currently plans to hold the November election under the usual rules for voting in person or by mail. Lawson and Governor Holcomb have said it’s too soon to discuss whether to repeat the expansion of absentee voting.