Despite coming to an agreement on allowing any voter to cast a ballot by mail in Tuesday’s primary, the leaders of Indiana’s two major political parties disagree on how to proceed in November.
To address concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the Indiana Election Commission in March expanded the option of voting by mail to any registered voter rather than requiring a voter to have a specific reason for needing to do so.
But the change only applied to the June 2 primary election. The commission has not made any changes to the Nov. 3 general election.
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer said he wants the November election to proceed as normal, without any expansion of voting by mail.
But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said he believes any voter should have the option to vote by mail in the fall. Democrats also want the deadline extended for when those ballots have to be returned. The deadline for absentee ballots is currently noon on Election Day.
Democratic members of the Election Commission argued to delay the deadline to return mail-in ballots prior to the primary, but the Republican members rejected the suggestion.
Zody said the high number of voters requesting ballots by mail is proof that Hoosiers like the option when it’s made widely available. In Marion County, more than 122,000 voters requested a ballot by mail. That’s more than 20 times the number of voters who cast a ballot by mail in the last presidential primary election, in 2016.
“We don’t know where we’ll be with public health,” Zody said. “But it’s obvious people want to use this process.”
However, Hupfer said the long lines at polling places on Tuesday indicated that people enjoy voting in person. In Marion County, some voters were still casting ballots hours after polls closed at 6 p.m. Any voter that was in line by 6 p.m. could still cast a ballot.
“It certainly seems like voters were pretty comfortable getting out and voting,” Hupfer said.
Hupfer said he’s advocating for returning the number of polling sites back to normal levels.
In Marion County, only 22 vote centers were open on Tuesday, compared to the typical 270.
Hupfer said 22 locations “was just too few.”
“We can’t have limited access,” Hupfer said. “People want to vote in person.”
Zody agreed that more polling places should be open on Election Day in November, but said he wouldn’t speculate on whether more locations should have been available on Tuesday.
“I think Marion County is doing the best they can,” Zody said.
Marion County election officials have previously said they struggled to recruit poll workers, and that was a significant factor in why polling locations were decreased so much.
Hupfer and Zody also agree on returning the number of in-person early voting days offered back to 28 days. In-person early voting for the primary was reduced to seven days out of public health concerns.
“I’m always going to advocate for as many voting opportunities as possible,” Zody said.