Absentee voting, which refers to both early in-person and by mail voting, has increased dramatically in Indiana and nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to record state turnout and fewer polling places, Indiana voters have been waiting in long lines in Monroe County and across the state.
In spite of long lines and health and safety concerns, nearly a million Hoosiers have voted in the election already, according to an Indy Star article.
With 12 days remaining until Election Day, 983,164 early in-person and mail-in ballots have been received in Indiana. The state is on track to receive well over a million absentee ballots this election. In the 2016 general election, 977,239 Hoosiers voted early.
For the 2020 general election, more than half a million mail-in ballots were requested. As of Thursday,all but about 59,000 had already been returned.
In the 2016 and 2018 general elections, about one-third of ballots were cast absentee, either early in-person or by mail.
In the 2020 primary election, when Indiana instituted no-excuse absentee voting and in the early throes of the pandemic, more than half of all ballots were cast absentee. In the 2016 primary election, only about 16% of votes were cast absentee. Turnout in Indiana’s 2020 primary was about 24%, compared to 37% in 2016.
Nearly three quarters of Monroe County voters voted absentee in the 2020 primary, versus about 28% who did so in the 2016 primary. Overall turnout was also low in Monroe County — 27%, down from 35% in 2016.
In the 2016 general election, most Indiana absentee voters voted early and in person. Only about 16% of absentee voters used mail-in ballots. In the 2020 general election, about half of Indiana absentee voters — which includes early in-person and by mail voting — will have voted by mail.
Indiana election officials said they believe the uptick is due to the coronavirus even though the pandemic is not an excuse to vote by mail. Indiana is one of few states where the coronavirus pandemic is not an excuse to vote by mail.
In a press release, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said the increase in absentee ballots may delay election results past Election Night, reflecting nationwide concerns about delayed results. The press release also encouraged voters to contact their county clerk’s office if they wished to work as absentee ballot counters.
This election is on track to have record high turnout, with state officials predicting it could triple in some counties. However, there are significant barriers to voting in Indiana, which ranked 40th in voter turnout in 2016.
Even with no-excuse absentee voting, primary turnout in Indiana was low this year. Many areas of the state had significantly fewer polling places open due to the pandemic.
Mail-in ballots must be received — not postmarked — by Election Day. Those who requested their absentee ballots close to the deadline may not be able to mail them back in time for them to be counted. Monroe County voters who have not yet mailed back their ballots are encouraged to drop them off at Election Central to ensure they arrive on time.