Indiana Election Commission should allow for no excuse absentee voting

Indiana Vote By Mail in the South Bend Tribune

It seems like a distant memory, those times just after the turn of the calendar year into 2020, when we didn’t have a care in the world other than making it through another Indiana winter and lamenting the number of political ads on television.

Fast forward the short time frame to mid-March 2020, and the world is a vastly different place today. The measures being taken now are meant to slow the progress of COVID-19, and to protect the most vulnerable among us. Who knows what the future holds?

Under these conditions, it only makes sense for us to revisit the way Indiana conducts elections. The electorate in Indiana knows we mostly show up to vote in-person, either through early voting at a number of sites, or at a vote center or polling center on Election Day.

Given the widely propagated advice to reduce contact with others and to engage in social distancing when we do have to be around other people, it is counterintuitive to ask Indiana voters to congregate at election centers in order to vote on Election Day. The traditional Indiana way of voting poses risks to the health of Hoosiers throughout the state.

But here’s the problem: In Indiana, in order to vote by absentee ballot, you need to apply for and be approved to receive an absentee ballot. Once the absentee ballot application is received, you need to ensure your application is returned to your county election board no later than 12 days prior to the election, which in this case is 11:59 p.m. on April 23.

Here’s the other problem with the absentee ballot process in Indiana: There are 11 acceptable reasons according to Indiana Code for why you can’t show up at the polls on Election Day. Avoiding the coronavirus is not one of those excuses.

The rub in all of this is that those responsible for running elections in Indiana do not regularly, if at all, monitor those 11 reasons to ensure voters are using the absentee application appropriately. It begs the question, then why do we have those 11 reasons at all? Shouldn’t we be able to apply for an absentee ballot out of concern for our own health and the health of others?

The Indiana Election Commission (317-232-3939, Ext. 0; elections@iec.in.gov) has the power in its hands to allow no-excuse absentee balloting, so that all eligible Hoosier voters can easily access a mailed ballot for the May 5 primary election if they choose to do so. Please contact the Indiana Election Commission by phone or by email to let them know how you feel.

And finally, let’s ask the Indiana Election Division to help counties build the infrastructure Indiana needs to deal with widespread mailed balloting, something that doesn’t exist in Indiana today.

Barbara Tully is president of Indiana Vote By Mail.

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