Gov. Holcomb supports delaying May primary but says decision isn’t his to make

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Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday he supports delaying the state’s May 5 primary as part of Indiana’s larger response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the decision will be up to Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

Holcomb, a Republican, said he’s concerned about the safety of poll workers, voters and all the people involved in making an election run smoothly.

The governor said Lawson, a Republican whose office includes the Indiana Election Division, is leading discussions with political party officials about the issue.

“I’ll support, ultimately, the decision to delay our primary election,” Holcomb said. “… We’re trying to build consensus here. That’s the best outcome for something as important as an election.”

Lawson’s office did not immediately respond to messages from IBJ.

Indiana has no challenged races for statewide elected offices in this year’s primary and it is uncertain whether the Democratic presidential race will remain undecided. Multiple candidates are seeking nominations for congressional seats being given up by Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky and Republican Rep. Susan Brooks.

A number of states that have primaries in March, April and May have decided to delay them. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that state’s primary, which had been set for May 19, will take place June 23.

Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana and Wyoming have also delayed their primaries.

In Indiana, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties previously called on the state to make it easier for Hoosiers to cast their ballots by mail.

In a joint letter sent last week to the Indiana Election Commission, Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody also requested that the deadline to vote absentee by mail be extended to a date closer to Election Day.

The commission hasn’t yet taken any action and the secretary of state’s office spokeswoman said she had no updates available.

State Democratic Chairman John Zody said he believed conducting the primary largely by mail was the best option.

“We are engaged in a constructive dialogue with our Republican counterparts and those discussions are ongoing,” he said in a statement.

Yesterday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and City-County Council President Vop Osili announced that the city intends to mail all registered voters in Marion County an absentee ballot application well before the planned primary.

They said in-person voting could be hindered by public health restrictions, and wanted to make sure citizens knew they had an alternative way to vote.

“Our top priority as public officials continues to be the protection of our residents from the threat associated with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Hogsett said in a written statement. “We are also mindful of our obligation to ensure that voters are able to freely and safely exercise their rights, and we are committed to pursuing changes that will allow all registered voters to cast a ballot this year.”

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