INDIANAPOLIS — In the spring of 2016, 33% of Marion County registered voters cast ballots during the primary election.
Next week, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday’s primary election, pushed back a month from its traditional May date, may double the 2016 output, but lots of votes will likely never make the record-breaking tally.
Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge has written a letter to Secretary of State Connie Lawson warning that the county’s election system is at, “the breaking point…thousands of ballots might not be counted…we have experienced significant delays with the U.S. Postal Service.”
“We processed 122,557 mail-in absentee ballot applications,” Eldridge told CBS4 News. “Every voter that submitted an absentee ballot application that did not have a problem with their application was mailed a ballot.
“We are assuming we will probably get close to eighty thousand absentee ballots returned.
“We mailed them a ballot. I want their ballots to be counted if they come in after Election Day.”
By Eldridge’s accounting, there may be more than forty thousand Marion County voters who have either changed their mind about participating in the primary or their ballots are somehow lost in the system.
“Maybe the post office could not have enough folks to deliver or see that the ballots are returned to the Election Board,” said the Clerk, “and it is possible we will have a lot of ballots come in after noon on Election Day and they won’t be counted.”
Eldridge’s letter to Lawson requested an extension of Tuesday’s noon deadline for the casting of mail-in ballots.
Jennifer Regelski is worried that her ballot, and her daughter’s first votes, won’t be counted.
“My daughter was really excited this was her first election so she’s kind of bummed that she potentially won’t be able to vote so we hope something happens before Tuesday.
“I obviously think primaries are important but in the general election if our voices aren’t heard that would be a travesty.”
In a response to Eldridge’s plea for help, Lawson made it clear that the Marion County Clerk was literally, “at the table” in March when the challenges of a June primary were first discussed and delayed a request for help in May that, “should have arrived weeks earlier.”
Lawson’s response also recounts ballot applications received by Marion County voters were often incorrect and that extending the deadline for receiving late ballots, for whatever reason, “will not help as many Marion County voters have not received a ballot.”
In comments during Governor Eric Holcomb’s afternoon coronavirus briefing, Lawson added that while Marion County cannot control the delivery of the mail, it has offered voters the alternative of casting ballots in person at 20 voting sites between now and the close of business on Election Day.
Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office said his administration offered staffing help to the clerk for the processing of mail-in ballots.