We’re calling on Indiana elected officials to ensure Hoosiers have the option to vote absentee — no excuse needed. To request a mail-in ballot Indiana typically requires voters to provide a reason they can’t make it to the polls, but protecting voters from the threat of COVID-19 should be reason enough.
Indiana is one of only nine states requiring a reason to cast an absentee ballot for the November 3rd election. Twenty-nine states offer no-excuse absentee voting in every election, and voters in five states automatically receive a ballot in the mail. In other words, the option to vote absentee is the norm in a majority of the states. Indiana should be one of them.
This more accessible form of voting ensures, rather than threatens, free and fair elections for all. Despite claims that absentee voting enables voter fraud, government investigations, courts, and academic research all have concluded this issue is nearly non-existent. Voter fraud incident rates are between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent, and despite several studies into this issue, no evidence of organized fraudulent efforts has been found. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.
Indiana already suffers from incredibly low voter turnout, and we must not allow the pandemic to send our voters in the wrong direction. Indiana had the 14th lowest voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election with turnout just over 56% and the 12th lowest turnout in the 2018 midterm election with just 46.5%. These rates suggest that Indiana does not have a voter fraud problem, but rather a voter turnout problem.
Indiana is home to seriously alarming voter suppression laws, including the most restrictive voter ID law in the country and consistent attempts to purge voters without notice. These laws are passed under the guise of election integrity and disproportionally impact voters of color. 25%of African-Americans lack a government-issued ID, the only acceptable voter identification in Indiana. And, purging voters due to perceived duplications also impacts Black and brown communities more than whites due to a prevalence of common surnames in ethnic communities.
Indiana also has one of the shortest polling windows at 12 hours. Add the health risk of a global pandemic and we are setting Indiana up for another election with embarrassingly low voter turnout. The health threats related to the current pandemic are likely to limit the number of volunteers and voting booths at polling locations, leading to unmanageable lines on election day. Now more than ever we are pushing for Indiana to enact no-excuse absentee voting.
In the 2018 midterm election, 32% of Indiana votes were absentee, but every Hoosier should have the right to cast their vote via mail-in ballot this November. Indiana cannot wait until a month before the election to expand absentee voting. During the primaries we saw Indiana’s system overwhelmed by the massive increase in absentee ballots. Many voters reported not receiving their application or ballot in time to return it by the noon deadline.
We must allow time for the appropriate measures to be put in place. If absentee voting is enacted but we see thousands of votes go uncounted, or absentee ballots that don’t make it to recipients in time, then Indiana officials haven’t done enough. Indiana election officials must act now. We can’t allow COVID-19 to be a barrier to the ballot box. That’s why we’re calling for no-excuse absentee voting, an extended deadline to return absentee ballots, and the option to safely vote in person. Let election officials know you demand a safe, fair, and easy way to cast your ballot.