Monroe County’s election board is preparing for the upcoming June 2 primary election by promoting the no-excuse absentee voting option that the state’s election commission has enacted just for this year’s primary.
The June 2 date is a postponement from the originally scheduled May 5 primary. Postponement of the election and no-excuse absentee voting are measures meant to help make the election safer for the voters and election workers.
Voting absentee takes a couple of steps, the first of which is for a voter to submit an application form to request a ballot.
At it’s meeting on Thursday afternoon, the election board gave a green light to election office staffers to start prepping for a mass mailing, so that all of the county’s roughly 100,000 registered voters will receive a ballot application in the mail.
Ordinarily, the ballot application is a form that has to be downloaded or obtained through an in-person visit.
In the same mailing as the ballot application, the board wants to include a list of the consolidated polling sites the board is planning to use, so that voters who want to cast a ballot in person on Election Day will know where to go.
The board is looking to winnow down to five the 34 polling locations that are normally used, so that the number of poll workers can be reduced. An initial set of five polling sites, which the board discussed at an earlier meeting, has changed. The Indian Creek fire station, deemed too hard to find, is probably out, to be replaced by Southside Christian Church.
Election Central at Madison and 7th Streets won’t be usable as an Election Day polling site, because that’s where the central ballot counting will take place. Among the replacement sites spitballed by the board and staff on Thursday was the pavilion at Switchyard Park. But the Free Methodist Church was settled on as a more likely choice.
The final polling site selections will be made at the continuation of the meeting, on Monday (April 27) at 10 a.m. at Election Central. The board recessed the meeting, as opposed to adjourning it, the second time it’s used that procedure.
The documents for the mailing will be reviewed on Monday, and the materials will then be forwarded to Rainbow Printing in Bedford. An offer from Quadient, a company that specializes in mass mailing and tracking, which did some election work in Michigan, was apparently withdrawn, based on comments from Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne at Thursday’s meeting.
The quote from Rainbow Printing for preparation of the mailing materials came out to about $17,000. That does not include postage, which will run about $50,000, according to Hal Turner, chair of the election board. The return envelope for voters to send in their ballot application will not include postage.
Based on board and staff deliberations at Thursday’s meeting, a request will be made to the city of Bloomington to help share the cost of the mass mailing to send a ballot application to every voter.
Election officials on Thursday put a chunk of time into thinking through the logistics of disinfection regimens that would be needed through the day for in-person voting. They also discussed what kind of personal protection equipment (PPE) would be provided to poll workers.
Some amount of PPE is supposed to come from the state of Indiana. At the April 16 daily press briefing by state officials, secretary of state Connie Lawson said Indiana was applying for $7.9 million worth of federal election COVID-19 funds. That money would be used to to buy masks, gloves, hand, sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting supplies for voting systems, she said. The secretary of state’s office will be distributing those supplies to the counties, Lawson said.
It’s not clear how much PPE for election workers will be allocated by the state to Monroe County.
One kind of PPE that will definitely be in adequate supply for Monroe County is face shields. Turner was wearing a face shield at Thursday’s meeting that he had 3D-printed himself. If every poll worker wants a face shield, he could print 100 in two days, Turner said. He can achieve that kind of capacity, because he has four printers that he can task for production.
Information about how to apply for an absentee ballot so that voters can send it in by mail is maintained online by Election Central staff.