Why Indiana counties ask voters to request absentee ballots early

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INDIANAPOLIS — We are less than 50 days away from the General Election. In Marion County, the number of people requesting to vote absentee by mail has already doubled the 2016 total.

Still, some voters are confused about the process.

In order to vote by mail in Indiana, you have to qualify. There’s a list of reasons you may eligible on the application.

If those reasons don’t apply to you, you can vote in-person either early or on Election Day.

Some voters have contacted us saying they are confused because they didn’t request an absentee ballot by mail but received one anyway. Or they may have received a text from an Indiana political party letting them know an application is on the way.

“Have you been getting a lot of confusion?” asked Kayla Sullivan to Marion County Deputy Clerk Russell Hollis.

“Yes we have,” responded Hollis. “One thing that we try to reiterate to voters is that you only need to complete the application just one time.”

State parties won’t say how many applications they sent to potential absentee voters.

“We have a proprietary process to determine who we think are likely Republican voters and likely to vote absentee and so we have always done an absentee push to make it easier for those voters,” said Indiana Republican Chair Kyle Hupfer.

You don’t have to get an application from political parties. Most people request it from their county clerk’s office.

“The absentee application itself is very clear that you have to meet one of the enumerated criteria in order to vote by absentee,” explained Kyle Hupfer.

If your application qualifies — they’ll mail you a ballot. Then you can either mail it back or return it in person.

Hupfer said Indiana’s process is safer than voting by mail in other states because of how robust it is.

“It’s a safe process, you have to fill out an application so you have now verified your address, then the clerk sends it out and then there’s a check and balance once it is sent back in to match signatures, etc.,” said Hupfer. “It’s not foolproof in Indiana, there have been some issues over time but by and large it is a very safe and secure way to vote.”

The Indiana Democratic Party agrees that the process to vote absentee by mail is safe. However, Chair John Zody said he wants to see the state expand the right to vote absentee.

“Why are we still one of six states only one of six states that has refused to expand that?” said Zody.

Indiana Republican Governor Eric Holcomb has said one reason he does not support expanding absentee voting by mail is to preserve the efficiency and speed of the election.

“Where’s the help? If you are so concerned about the process of the election and worried about a delay?” asked Zody. “It’s a small price to pay for exercising a constitutionally protected right to vote that we fought wars over.”

Despite the fact Indiana chose not to expand the right to vote by mail this election, the state is already expecting a record-breaking number of absentee ballots.

In Marion County alone— the Deputy Clerk estimates they’ll send out more than 100,000 applications.

“We’ve already doubled what we received 4 years ago,” said Deputy Clerk Hollis.

Counties are hiring extra workers to help keep up with the load. Still, they do expect a delay in results due to the high volume of absentee ballots.

Zody said that won’t mean something went wrong in the election process.

“Quite the contrary,” said Zody. “It’s because clerks and election ministers want to make sure that the votes are counted correctly that they did everything right.”

If you do qualify to vote absentee by mail, you can track the process online to make sure your vote counts.

The deadline to request absentee ballot is October 22.

The deadline to return an absentee ballot is before noon on Election Day.

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