Indiana’s primary election is being postponed from May 5 to June 2 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials announced Friday morning.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Party Chairman John Zody announced the agreement.
Holcomb, a Republican, said he believes it is the first time in the state’s history that an election day has been rescheduled. He signed the executive order changing the date Friday.
“My plea and my hope is that we all understand the gravity of what is surrounding us,” Holcomb said. “The more people who are practicing what we’re preaching, the faster we’ll get through this.”
All dates corresponding with the primary election will be moved by 28 days to reflect the shift. For example, military and overseas ballots were required to be mailed 45 days prior to the primary election, so that deadline, which is already passed, is being moved 45 days prior to June 2.
The deadline to register to vote, early voting dates and campaign finance reporting deadlines will also be moved accordingly.
“It will be a learning process for all of us,” Lawson said. “I am confident that we will conduct a safe and secure election.”
Lawson, a Republican whose office includes the Indiana Election Division, said she has been talking to county clerks about the election, and several have told her they have been struggling to recruit poll workers due to the ongoing public health crisis. Postponing the election gives county officials more time to prepare, Lawson said.
In addition to delaying the date of the election, state officials are also recommending that the Indiana Election Commission expand the option to vote absentee by mail to all registered voters.
Lawson said she also wants the commission to allow county clerks to continue to mail ballots from now until 12 days before the June 2 election, accept ballots with the May 5 date and give family members the ability to deliver absentee ballots as opposed to limiting it to only a member of the household.
Zody and Hupfer had previously called on the election commission to expand voting-my-mail options, and both were supportive of the postponement decision announced Friday morning.
The election commission will meet Wednesday at the Statehouse to vote on the recommendations.
When asked whether the election date could be postponed again, Lawson said she could not speculate.
Lawson cautioned that a widespread increase in absentee voting by mail could cause significant delays in tallying votes on election night, because some counties are concerned about counting capacity.
“The more absentee ballots we have, we have to patient on election night,” Lawson said.
Indiana has no contested races for statewide elected offices in this year’s primary and the Democratic presidential race could be decided. 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 his 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.
As of now, the Indiana Democratic Party Convention on June 13 and the Indiana Republican Party Convention on June 19-20 are still moving ahead as planned. But both party leaders are preparing contingency plans. Both parties will select their nominees for attorney general at their conventions, and the race is contested for both Democrats and Republicans.
Hupfer said they are looking into alternative ways for delegates to vote.
“Those are to be determined,” Hupfer said. “All options would be on the table.”
Zody said his party also has to consider deadlines associated with the Democratic National Convention, because Indiana Democrats select national delegates at their state convention.
“It does cut it very close,” Zody said. “We knew that going in.”
The decision to postpone the primary quickly received support from politicians in both parties.
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said state officials “are making the right call.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, said he was “heartened” to hear the decision.
Hogsett had already earlier this week announced plans to to mail all registered voters in Marion County an absentee ballot application well before the primary. In a statement released Friday, he said the city will still do that ahead of the June 2 election.
“Our city’s ability to ensure that every resident can vote on Election Day is vital to the health of both our community and our democracy,” Hogsett said in the statement.