INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The Indiana Election Commission deadlocked Friday on whether to let all
residents vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a virtual
commission meeting, the four-person board was split along party lines on a
proposal that would allow all voters to cast a ballot by mail in November.
state’s voters must provide an accepted and specific reason to use an
absentee ballot, including being over age 65, residing outside of the
country or having to work while the polls are open. Under the stay-at-home
order in June, those exceptions were lifted, allowing anyone the option to
vote by mail.
For now, however,
Indiana remains one of nine states that don’t have no-excuse-needed absentee
voting for the November election.
Anthony Long, a
Democrat on the commission, argued a vote-by-mail expansion for this year’s
General Election is necessary given the continued course of the pandemic. He
also cited a recent letter from State Schools Superintendent Jennifer
McCormick that suggests polling places should not be located in schools for
health concerns. Last week, McCormick called for expanded vote-by-mail for
More than 37,000
absentee ballot applications have been submitted already, Long said. At this
time in 2016, there were just 109.
“People should not
have to make a choice between risking their health and exercising their
right to vote,” Long said.
members of the commission opposed making that change.
Okeson said it’s still “premature” to make any decisions about voting in the
general election, adding that the commission should instead await the
outcome of several federal lawsuits seeking to order the state to expand
absentee ballot eligibility.
echoes that of Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has maintained in recent weeks that
there are enough early votng options and that in-person voting would be safe
“Folks need to
understand that it is safe to vote,” Holcomb said Aug. 5. “There are a lot
of people out and about ... they’re doing it safely, and we can vote safely
in person, as well.”
The governor said
he won’t decide otherwise on mail-in voting until a federal judge issues an
opinion on whether the state’s election law allowing some but not all
registered voters to vote by mail violates the Constitution. He anticipates
that decision around Labor Day.
Holcomb did not
immediately comment on Friday’s Election Commission vote.
commission member Suzannah Wilson Overholt argued that members of the board
need to make a decision now to give the U.S. Postal Service and county
election offices time to prepare.
“The time that this
process takes is not one that can wait for the courts,” Overholt said.
board members also sparred with Zachary Klutz, the other Republican member
on the commission, who said he believed universal vote-by-mail requires a
policy change state lawmakers - not the Election Commission - should make.
The commission also
failed to approve a motion that would allow all counties in Indiana to use a
letter-opening machine to more easily count absentee ballots. The board
previously approved use of the automatic opener for ballots, but only in