-- With less than 100 days remaining until the General Election, two former
Indiana lieutenant governors are calling for Gov. Eric Holcomb to expand
mail-in voting as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
John Mutz, a
Republican who served under former Gov. Robert Orr, and Kathy Davis, a
Democrat who served under Joe Kernan, on Friday announced at a news
conference that they have decided to partner with Indiana Vote by Mail, a
nonprofit that’s also advocating for all Hoosiers to have a mail-in ballot
option come November.
Without a broad
mail-in voting option, the former lieutenant governors noted that fewer
voting locations and long lines at polls will further suppress votes for
minority, disabled and low-income voters. If the state waits too long to
make a decision, they added, ill-prepared election offices and ballot
backlogs are a feared result.
greatly improve ... to make that happen,” Davis said. “We better get
started. I don’t think we can justify waiting for another 30 days of
infection rates to suggest that we really need to provide this option.”
Republican election officials haven’t taken action yet, Mutz added, because
of “pressure” from President Donald Trump, “It’s unfortunate. There’s no
reason why we can’t do the right thing here.”
Indiana voters were
allowed to mail their ballots for the June primary, while the state was
still under a stay-at-home order. In recent weeks, however, Holcomb has
indicated he doesn’t think the mail-in option will be necessary again.
In a news
conference Wednesday, the governor said Hoosiers have enough early voting
options already, adding that circumstances now are different than they were
“Now Hoosiers can
go out,” he said. “Now you can vote almost a month in advance ... and there
are various options if you can’t vote in person.”
Indiana is one of
nine states that does not currently have no-excuse-needed absentee voting
for the November election. Generally, Hoosier 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.
On Thursday, a
federal lawsuit filed by the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and
Common Cause Indiana seeks to further compel the state to expand absentee
voting. The lawsuit argues that the state’s deadline for mail-in ballots --
noon on Election Day -- doesn’t account for expected surges in mail-in
ballots and potential mail delays caused by the pandemic. The nonprofit
contends that any ballot postmarked by Election Day should be counted
“Indiana has seen a
surge in requests for mail-in ballots and now we must make sure all those
voters who chose to vote by mail to protect their health do not face
barriers in making their voice heard,” Julia Vaughn, policy director at
Common Cause Indiana, said in a statement.
The lawsuit is one
of at least three pending in federal court to challenge Indiana’s election
protocols. Another of the federal lawsuits, filed on behalf of Common Cause
Indiana, argues that an Indiana law blocking voters and candidates from
asking courts to keep polling places open past the state’s 6 p.m. closing
time because of Election Day troubles violates the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit asks
that a judge issue an order prior to this November’s election blocking the
state law from being enforced.