By Erick Johnson
Gary residents who list COVID-19 as a reason to request a mail-in ballot may not be able to vote by the General Election in November.
That’s because many may not be able to receive a mail-in ballot because COVID-19 is not listed among the 11 valid reasons for not voting in person on Indiana’s website.
That may be a problem for many voters who are planning to skip in person and vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike in many states, voters in Indiana are not automatically sent a mail-in ballot. They must request a mail-in ballot to vote by mail.
Gary voters should also know there is a deadline to request a mail-in ballot (October 22) and for it to be counted, the ballot must arrive by November 3, unlike some states that count post-marked ballots that arrive after Election Day.
For these reasons, many voters remain concerned that their mail ballots may not get to election officials in time to be counted.
Mail-in voting rules vary by state and Indiana is among six states that require voters to have a valid excuse for not going to the polls on election days. According to the Washington Post, the other states with similar rules are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
At least 1,293 residents in Gary have been infected with COVID-19 and 74 have died from the disease.
The Crusader spoke with Matthew Kochevar, co-general of Indiana’s Elections Division to confirm whether COVID-19 is a valid reason to get a mail-in ballot.
“Unfortunately, I cannot speak to that, but my advice to voters is look at all the reasons listed and get your request in” Kochevar said.
The following reasons are listed as valid excuses for requesting a mail in ballot with the Indiana Election Division.
- You have a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open (6 a. m. until 6 p. m.).
- You have a disability.
- You are at least 65 years of age.
- You will have official election duties outside of your voting precinct.
- You are scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
- You will be confined due to illness or injury or you will be caring for an individual confined due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
- You are prevented from voting because of a religious discipline or religious holiday during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
- You are a participant in the state’s address confidentiality program.
- You are a member of the military or a public safety officer.
- You are a “serious sex offender” as defined in Indiana Code 35-42-4-14(a).
- You are prevented from voting due to the unavailability of transportation to the polls.
According to an analysis by the Washington Post, 77 percent of Americans can vote by mail this fall after numerous states relaxed their rules in response to the health crisis. And questions remain whether the United States Postal Service can handle the expected surge of mail-in votes for the General Election.
To vote absentee by mail, a voter must first complete an ABS-Mail (En Espanol) application before each election.
The application to request a vote-by-mail ballot must be received not later than 11:59 p.m., 12-days before the election, or October 22 for the November election.
The county or the state must have the application in its possession by this deadline; any application received after this deadline – even if it’s postmarked before the deadline – cannot be processed.
County election officials must receive an absentee-by-mail ballot not later than noon (local prevailing time) on Election Day, November 3, 2020. County election officials must have possession of the ballot by this deadline; postmarks – even if dated on or before the date of the election – cannot be considered timely.
Voters can download and print the ABS-Mail form OR call their county election official or the Indiana Election Division at (317) 232-3939 for an application to be mailed to the voter or visit their county election office or election division to pick-up an application in-person.