(INDIANAPOLIS) — Governor Holcomb has said Indiana doesn’t need to expand absentee voting for the November election, and a divided Indiana Election Commission is backing him up.
The commission’s Republican members voted down a Democratic proposal to let any registered voter cast a ballot by mail. Indiana did that for the June primary, but commission members are echoing Governor Holcomb’s argument that with the state out of lockdown, there’s no need for changes. Chairman Paul Okeson says the commission isn’t meant to be a policymaking body — he says it’s legislators’ job to decide whether there should be looser criteria for absentee voting.
Democratic commission member Anthony Long maintains voters still have legitimate concerns about the coronavirus. He says the state has already received 37,000 absentee ballot applications — at this point four years ago, there were barely 100.
Okeson says the panel should wait on a ruling on a federal lawsuit seeking to force an expansion of
absentee voting. Long argues the state is running out of time to prepare. The state must print and deliver ballots to some counties by September 14, and Long says to meet that deadline, the preparation has to begin sooner.
34 states already either run elections exclusively by mail or allow any registered voter to vote absentee. Nine more states have eliminated limits on absentee voting this year because of the pandemic.
Okeson says the state will send masks, sanitizer, and social-distancing markers to all polling places so
voters can feel safe. And Holcomb has said with four weeks of early voting, people have options to avoid long lines to vote. Long says there’s no way to ensure mask orders at polling places will be enforced — he says pollworkers can’t deny people their right to vote if they refuse to mask up.
The Election Commission is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. At least three of the four members must agree to any changes.