Federal judge blocks Indiana’s noon deadline for receiving mail-in ballots

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A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a state law that declares mail-in absentee ballots late and invalid if they aren’t received by noon on Election Day.

The injunction approved by Southern Indiana District Court Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker means that all mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received on or before Nov. 13—10 days after the election—must be counted, if otherwise valid.

The injunction applies only to this year’s Nov. 3 general election.

Barker’s ruling came in response to a legal motion by plaintiffs Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who claim the law unconstitutionally disenfranchises voters who mailed their ballots on or before Election Day.

The groups estimated that thousands of mail-in ballots will be tossed out if the noon deadline rule is enforced in the general election. They estimated that about 10,000 absentee ballots were rejected as “late” during Indiana’s 2020 primary election. The plaintiffs said many more ballots would be rejected under the law in the general election because an unprecedented number of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail because of the pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed against Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Indiana Election Commission members Paul Okeson, Anthony Long, Suzannah Overholt and Zachary Klutz.

Barker said plaintiffs’ case met all three requirements needed for an injunction: It demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on its merits; that there was no adequate remedy at law; and that irreparable harm would take place absent the injunction.

In arguing against the injunction, the Office of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill asserted in a brief that granting the injunction “would upend long-established election rules on the eve of an election, confusing voters and placing a significant strain on the system. Such results undermine, not further, the public interest.”

In her decision, Barker wrote “rather than undermining the public’s confidence in the election results, ensuring that all otherwise valid absentee ballots cast by Election Day are counted should instead strengthen the public’s confidence in the legitimacy of the final results.”

Barker disagreed with the defendants’ claim that changing election rules would “overburden absentee ballot counters and county election boards, who are responsible for authenticating and counting the absentee ballots by noon on Nov. 16, 2020.”

She said any “additional administrative strain does not outweigh the irreparable harm faced by Plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs were represented in this case by the Indianapolis firms of Macey Swanson and Findling Park Conyers Woody & Sniderman as well as the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The lawsuit regarding the noon deadline is one of several challenging Indiana elections laws, including another filed by Common Cause in which a judge blocked a unique-in-the-nation Indiana law that restricted who may petition a court to extend polling hours when voters have been deprived an opportunity to cast a ballot.

Perhaps most significantly among the unsettled Indiana voting lawsuits is a challenge that seeks to permit any registered Indiana voter to cast a ballot by mail. A district court judge upheld Indiana’s restrictions on absentee balloting, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals expedited the appeal, setting oral arguments for Wednesday.

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18 thoughts on “Federal judge blocks Indiana’s noon deadline for receiving mail-in ballots

  1. Received 10 days after the election? Are we delivering mail via pony express again? Matter of fact I’m not sure it would’ve taken 10 days ” back then” to deliver mail across the state. This is a clear obstruction of the election process. If you cannot get your ballot in by election day then it should not be counted. It’s that simple!

    1. How much more checking, to see if a person voted twice,in person and by mail. Or vote early, and day of. Ripe with possibilities of corruption.

    2. What’s the harm? 10 days is reasonable considering there is going to be a crush of mail-in ballots and DeJoy has done his best to make the USPS slow down.

    3. Have you mailed anything lately? Stuff that used to take a day to two is now taking a week!

      I am only speculating, but it seems to be tied to Trumps political appointment of a new Postmaster General in May. Oh by the way that is the same guy that owns a $50 million interest in a company that just happens to contract with the post office to provide extra help, if for some reason it is needed.

  2. Election? Why not wait until the end of the year. Maybe one day we can live in a world without deadlines. If your Rx expired, you should be able to refill anyway. Forget tax deadline. You didn’t see it coming. Tardy? What? Final exams? Not ready. Appointment? Back that up, too. Seems people might not have foreseen this election to get their votes in.

  3. To all of you who advocate in favor of the noon deadline, would you also be willing to accept a rule from the IRS that they throw-out your tax return if it was not received by noon on April 15th?

    1. Irrespective that IRS filings are much more complicated, often subcontracted out, and with higher liklihood of criminal penalties if done wrong, I would adjust to the rules: If the IRS has noon deadline, I would either mail plenty early to receive, or use the drop box at the local social security office (analagous to in-person voting)

      By 6pm day of election – or even a couple days later as an one-off exception in this pandemic seems practical. Ten days seems unnecessarily long.

    2. Scott, the ballots are due to the USPS by election day. The 10 day rule is how long the ballot counters are required to wait for the ballots to arrive.

    3. 10 days is normal for this USPS. And who’s to say that the Postmaster General doesn’t receive marching orders to slow mail service at the end of October?

  4. Voters are still required to submit their vote on or before election day (11/3). If it takes 10 days to be delivered, processed, and counted that’s a reflection of the governments failings not the voters.

  5. The noon deadline seem arbitrary and capricious as it has no reasonable basis. Allowing a reasonable period of time for the postal service to receive and deliver the absentee ballot is common among most states, anywhere from five to ten days after election day. There is no harm whatsoever in not immediately knowing who won an election, as certification of winners usually does not occur until December and winners do not typically assume their office until January 1 or later.

  6. I cannot believe I used to vote Republican. These guys are disgusting. In the middle of a Pandemic, I have to go in person in vote. If we are lucky, in the next few days, I will be allowed to vote by mail because another judge will see the laws and rules set up by Indiana Republicans for what they are, Voter Suppression.

    The law Republicans refused to address, and that resulted in 10,000 votes not being counted in June, deserved to be struck down. Our sleaze bag attorney general is standing up 100% in favor of this non-sense. Shame on them all.

    1. Election night is going to be so boring if we have to wait weeks or months to see who won. Yes this is a 10 day rule, but any voting challenges requiring the legal system could drag it out for who knows how long.

    2. Glad you switched to the Democrat party. You all knew about the pandemic last winter and now wonder how to vote. Early? You must be one of the few quarantined in your home who never goes out. It sounds like you are an extremely vulnerable person. In my 70s, I went to the polls for the primary, and there were masks, distance, and hand sanitizer. Curtis Hill has been a great attorney general, and I hope remerges with the same vigor and strength he exhibited as AG. He upholds the laws and does not waffle under pressure. He really should have been a juggler, since four women complained about him at the same time in a dive bar in the wee hours. They sure hung around – no doubt vying for the attention of a good-looking man – a bunch of cats! My goodness! Hope they are not looking for MONEY now. Is non-sense a word?

  7. Speaking as an actual juggler (peaking at 7 balls, 2 hands; 5 clubs; 5 balls, 1 hand), I doff my chapeau to AG Hill…
    As far as the voting goes, “Truth fears no trial.” although Donald may be the exception.
    Here in Fishers, the precincts seem to have been drawn to make some of us have it easy: I don’t remember the last time in 32 years I would have had any type of measurable wait and resorted to taking a book along and reading until someone else came along so I could honestly say I waited in line for an hour to vote.
    To be honest, el cheapo (the quality not price) should be tossed out on the trash and people should be allowed to vote just about anywhere they want to, any time they want to, within reason. You just have to have the right price to attract the right people to design such systems.