Indiana absentee ballot deadline extended

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 6:13 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A federal judge has stepped in to make sure a ballot correctly cast is a ballot counted in Indiana’s November election.

Due to the coronavirus, there’s a lot more interest in voting through the mail-but perhaps a lack of confidence in the postal system’s ability to handle the extra volume.

17,670 requests for mail in absentee ballots have already been received by the St. Joseph County Clerk’s Office and it seems like they’re being handled in a timely fashion.

“I myself, I got my ballot. It was mailed on a Friday, I received it on Saturday. I mailed it right back on Saturday and it was here in this office on Monday,” said Absentee Voting Supervisor Cindy Streich.

But in the county’s primary election about 500 absentee ballots were not counted because they arrived in the mail after the legal deadline of noon on Election Day.

“That is so disappointing. Why do we make it hard to vote in Indiana? And so it’s disappointing when somebody took the time to vote absentee by mail and it was no more than a late delivery of the mail,” said St. Joseph County Election Board Chair Catherine Fanello.

Yesterday a federal judge in southern Indiana agreed and issued a ruling that extends the deadline for the November election.

“Hoosier voters, now as long as you have your ballot in the mail by Election Day and it arrives within ten days after the election, counties have to count it,” said Julia Vaughn with Common Cause—the group that brought the matter to the court’s attention. “I think the judge’s decision is based in reality. It is based on the fact that voting during a pandemic presents very different problems. Ones that we’ve never seen before.”

Indiana already extends the same ten day grace period to Hoosiers who cast their ballots by mail while overseas.

“We need to do everything we can to keep people out of polling places. There are still real concerns in communities across Indiana about the spread of COVID-19 and so anything we can do to use the alternative means that are available to cast their ballot we should be doing, but I can tell you you now before yesterday’s decision there were many people who had ruled out voting by mail because they feared their ballot being rejected,” Vaughn said.

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