In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana instituted no-excuse absentee voting for the June primary election. More than 500,000 Hoosiers requested absentee ballots in order to more safely vote through the mail, a process already utilized in past decades by veterans, those who are homebound and overseas Hoosiers alike. On Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) spoke on the lessons learned from the completed primary election.

“It’s imperative that we make sure Hoosiers can exercise their right to vote even during a pandemic,” Sen. Lanane said. “I’m happy that in this primary, we allowed any Hoosier to vote absentee in the mail so that they would not have to decide between their health and their constitutional right. As many have seen, hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers requested those absentee ballots for this election. However, other state restrictions prevented no-excuse absentee voting to function properly, forcing many to vote in person yesterday.”

According to many reports, lines at vote centers were unprecedented in their length on Election Day. Many Hoosiers never received their ballots in the mail, and others received them too late to return. In addition, Secretary of State Connie Lawson denied requests from state leaders to count all ballots postmarked by Election Day. Because of the deadline, many Hoosiers who mailed their ballot were forced to vote in-person to avoid their already cast vote from being dismissed.

“Our Secretary of State offered no support after no-excuse absentee voting was implemented,” Sen. Lanane said. “No federal election money was used to help counties process increased absentee ballot requests. In addition, the Secretary of State’s refusal to allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted is downright wrong. Counties are used to counting ballots after Election Day because this is a policy that has been used by the military for years. The rule that mail-in ballots had to be received by election offices by noon on Election Day is completely arbitrary when voting is allowed until 6 p.m. What happens to ballots that were delivered on Election Day after 12 p.m. through regularly-scheduled mail delivery?

“Yes, I’m so proud that many Hoosiers refused to let these arbitrary barriers keep them from voting. However, we are still battling a major pandemic, and our state government must ensure that Hoosiers are not forced to exchange their own health for their constitutional right to make their voices heard. We must learn from this election and ensure that all barriers to voting by mail are eliminated in November.

“Mail-in voting works when the state allows it to actually have the resources and flexibility needed to be successful. This is why the many states, both red and blue, that employ mail-in voting see high rates of voter participation. When election officials are willing to adapt the system to make expanded mail-in voting work, they create a very efficient and very safe election. This pandemic will still be around in the fall, and Hoosiers’ lives and their votes are on the line.”