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Due to COVID-19 concerns, an agreement to move the date of this year’s Indiana primary election from May 5 to June 2 was announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb midday March 20. He was joined by Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Party Chair John Zody.

All dates corresponding with the primary election will be moved by 28 days to reflect the primary’s new date. For example, military and overseas ballots are required to be mailed 45 days prior to the primary election, so they’ll move 45 days prior to June 2.

“The right of citizens to elect their leaders in a free and open election is one of the cornerstones of America. In order to balance that right with the safety of county employees, poll workers and voters, delaying Indiana’s primary election is the right move as we continue to do all we can to protect Hoosiers’ health,” the governor said.

In addition, the quartet made these recommendations to the Indiana Election Commission: suspend absentee-by-mail rules to allow all Hoosiers the option to vote by mail in the upcoming primary; allow county clerks to continually mail ballots from now through 12 days out from the new primary election date; confirm ballots with a May 5 date will be valid; enable medical professionals to be eligible members of traveling boards to vote nursing home and hospital patients; and give family members the ability to deliver absentee ballots. Currently only a member of a voter’s household may take possession of a ballot.

Lawson said, “As Indiana’s chief election officer, it is my top priority to protect our elections, but, above all else, it is my duty to protect the health and safety of Hoosiers. I believe the bipartisan recommendations we have asked the Indiana Election Commission to take will allow us to provide all Hoosiers the opportunity to vote.”

IEC Chairman Paul Okeson has called a commission meeting March 25 to discuss the recommendations.

Before the primary, two fresh deadlines loom.

Ripley County election deputy Diane Macek reported she received a new calendar from the Indiana Election Commission Friday afternoon, March 20. She noted, “Voter registration now closes on May 4.

“In-person absentee voting here in the clerk’s office starts May 5,” if the office is open then. The Ripley County courthouse and annex, Versailles, are closed to the public now.

What’s the best way to register to vote and vote absentee with so many offices closed? Macek advised, “Anything that they can do online, do it.”

An absentee ballot by mail (ABS-MAIL) application can be found at www.in.gov/sos/elections/2402.htm. Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose ABS-MAIL.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot application is Thursday, May 21, at 11:59 p.m. There are several ways to return the form:

In Franklin County: hand delivered to the clerk’s office; by mail, Franklin County Circuit Clerk-Election, 459 Main St., Brookville, IN 47012; by fax, 765-647-3224; by email, Elections@franklincounty.in.gov. Persons who have any questions or who would like to request an application be mailed should call 765-647-5111, ext. 3.

In Ripley County: hand delivered to the clerk’s office, Ripley County Annex second floor, 102 W. First North St., Versailles; by mail, Ripley County Circuit Clerk, P.O. Box 177, Versailles, IN 47042; by fax, 812-750-8701; by email, only for voters who live out of the country and military members. Persons who have any questions or who would like to request an application be mailed should call 812-689-4783.

Macek said absentee ballots will be mailed to voters once requests are received.

The deadline for the clerks to received completed absentee ballots by mail is June 2 at noon, when the clerk or staff will visit the post office to receive them. “In general, absentee ballots received after noon are considered as arriving too late and may not be counted,” according to the 2020 Indiana Election Calendar.

Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk Neysa Raible wants to reassure the public during the COVID-19 pandemic that new procedures will protect voters if in-person primary voting is allowed. “We are putting safety plans in place for our polling locations and workers. Each machine will be sanitized/wiped down. Hand sanitizer will also be available.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-717-3113.