Pan-wha? Indiana is just one of six states that refused to allow a pandemic to be one of the reasons voters can vote by mail next month—a factor that could disenfranchise an untold number of Hoosiers during the general election.
It’ll be fine, says Republican Governor Eric Holcomb, who backed by his party has frequently downplayed the risk of voting in person in next month’s election, even as he has curtailed other public activities amid the coronavirus outbreak. “Folks need to understand that it is safe to vote,” Holcomb said earlier this year. “Indiana will have a safe and secure and healthy, in-person election on November 3.”
Indiana Vote By Mail Inc., Common Cause Indiana, the League of Women Voters, Vote Safe Indiana, Women4Change Indiana, and the Indianapolis NAACP have all criticized Holcomb’s position. The Indiana Election Commission, which includes two Democrats and two Republicans, voted along party lines in August not to expand mail-in voting. A majority was required to make the change. The irony? The commission conducted the meeting by Zoom, out of caution amid the novel coronavirus.
Indiana Vote By Mail, a group of voters who want to expand mail-in voting, sought a federal judge’s action to allow no-excuse mail-in voting earlier this year. U.S. District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon balked. “Some states have chosen ‘no-excuse’ voting by mail for all. Indiana has decided otherwise,” Hanlon wrote. “The question here, however, is not whether the policy is wise, but whether it is unconstitutional.”
“We call it Election Day, not election month,” Holcomb has said. But he’s not right, according to the letter of state law. Early voting in Indiana starts October 6, almost a full month before Election Day. The latest you can apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot is October 22. If you’re a resident of Marion County, visit vote.indy.gov for more info.
At present, you can vote by mail if you have one of 12 different excuses, ranging from being out of the county on Election Day to being 65 or over to caring for someone with an illness or injury. You can request your application at in.gov/sos/elections. Registered Marion County voters may vote at any polling station in the county.
Some Indianapolis companies have made Election Day a holiday for the first time this year, including Salesforce and Lessonly. But historically, Indiana has been one of the more difficult states in which to cast a vote. A 2018 study by Northern Illinois University researchers ranked Indiana as the fourth-worst suffrage state.
Marion County voters now have four new places to vote this year, including large venues like Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the Indiana State Fairgrounds. “Making a community asset like Bankers Life Fieldhouse available on Election Day reflects our commitment to encouraging all Hoosiers to play their part in that process,” Pacers Sports & Entertainment said in an August statement.
Finally, now more than ever, if you are able, it’s important to sign up to be a poll worker. You can do so at indy.pollchief.com.
This article was updated to include information about where Marion County voters may vote.