Distressing images of Wisconsin voters risking health and safety to do their civic duty at polling places are still fresh. Meanwhile, Hoosiers are looking ahead to their June 2 primary facing similar choices.
Indiana officials, unlike their Wisconsin counterparts, have taken action to ensure that Hoosier voters will have more options for casting ballots without fear or hardship during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Upon recommendations from Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the Indiana Election Commission wisely postponed the state’s scheduled May 5 primary election until June 2. More importantly, it took the essential step of opening up the absentee mail-in voting process to any Hoosier who wants to use it.
Indiana election law allows voters to request and vote with an absentee ballot if they meet a list of permitted conditions. The state, when postponing the May election, eliminated those conditions for the 2020 primary.
Last week, the Election Commission moved forward with the vote-by-mail option for Hoosiers and other guidelines, including a shortened time frame for early in-person voting at designated polling places as well as fewer polling places on Election Day.
To her credit, Lawson is urging all voters to cast ballots by mail — an option everyone should embrace.
We hope risks of spreading the coronavirus will have receded by the start of early voting, but no one can be sure. Wisconsin health officials confirmed at least seven people contracted the virus from in-person voting activities. That doesn’t represent a surge in infections, but it demonstrates the potential that exists.
The state has made the vote-by-mail option simpler by eliminating absentee ballot requirements. But the process still requires extra effort on part of the voter. An application for an absentee ballot must first be obtained, completed and submitted to the clerk’s office in a voter’s home county by May 21. An application can be downloaded at www.IndianaVoters.com.
An absentee ballot will then be mailed to the voter requesting it, and the completed ballot must be returned to the county clerk’s office, either by mail or in person, by noon on Election Day.
The modified system isn’t perfect. An improved method would be for the state to order county clerks to mail applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter. Better yet, absentee ballots could be mailed to every registered voter, a system used successfully in five other states.
But Indiana is on the right track. Leaders of both major political parties have agreed on steps that will help people navigate the election process. It will be up to voters to use them wisely.
This editorial was originally published in the Tribune-Star (Terre Haute).