Indiana’s four-member election commission met Wednesday morning to consider an order related to the state’s primary election, originally scheduled for May 5, but postponed to June 2 by governor Eric Holcomb’s order last week.
The postponement was made because of the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading across the world, including the state of Indiana. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indiana has nearly doubled (increases by 1.8 times) in two days, from 259 on March 23 to 477 on March 25. The number of tests during that same period has increased by a similar amount, from from 1,960 on March 23 to 3,356 on March 25. COVID-19 has killed at least 14 people in the state, according to the state’s health department.
A highlight of the election commission’s order is the following: “All registered and qualified Indiana voters are afforded the opportunity to vote no-excuse absentee by mail.”
All of the dates associated with the election have been shifted forward on the calendar by 28 days.
The commission’s order holds out the possibility that the primary election might need to be done by mail only. The order says that’s a possibility the commission could consider at a meeting that’s been set for April 22.
Commissioner Anthony Long echoed the sentiments of commission chair Paul Okeson, by saying he was “heartened” that the state’s two major political parties had come together and reached a consensus about the postponement, including the procedure for implementing it.
Long said the Democratic Party had taken the legal position that it was the election commission that had the power to postpone the election and to make the necessary adjustments. The governor had taken the legal position that he had the power to make that happen. By acting in concert, Long said, neither side had needed to concede the legal correctness of the other.
Okeson said that even in these “tumultuous times” the commission was doing “what’s best for Hoosier voters.”
The meeting was held by videoconference, to which the public had access, as allowed under one of the recent orders issued by the governor.
The order approved by the commission on Wednesday does not include as a topic for consideration on April 22 the impact that the postponement might have on minor parties and the disability community. Still, Long mentioned the April 22 meeting as an opportunity to address those issues. “If we’ve created some consequences, we’ll be able to deal with them,” he said.
Local candidate for Monroe County commissioner, Randy Paul, has asked election commissioners to consider extending the June 30 deadline for the more than 1,000 signatures he’ll need to appear on the November ballot, or reducing the required number of signatures.
Paul wants to appear on the ballot as a Green Party candidate. Minor parties, like the Greens, are hampered by COVID-19 social distancing requirements, because the large gatherings were they might typically collect signatures won’t be taking place, Paul told The Square Beacon. Even the activity of collecting signatures for individuals one-to-one—handing a pen back and forth—would risk transmission of COVID-19, Paul said.
The commission action on Monday addressed only the conduct of the primary election, not the general election. [LINK to application for absentee ballot]