Election Extension: What to know when voting during a pandemic
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. — The first Tuesday in May is traditionally reserved for Indiana’s primary election, but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the election date is now June 2nd.
The pandemic has completely upended the way elections will be held this year.
Voters can still cast their ballot in person, where protective equipment will be provided, but officials are strongly encouraging people to cast their ballots by mail, from the safety of their home.
St. Joseph County Clerk Rita Glenn is busy sending out thousands of absentee ballots for the June 2nd primary election.
“We are pushing for the citizens of St. Joseph County and Indiana to vote by mail,” Glenn said.
State officials have lifted previous restrictions on absentee voting meaning anyone can vote by mail this year.
“In the past, there had to be a reason why you wanted to vote absentee by mail,” Chris Anderson, Elkhart’s County Clerk, explains. “Now, you don’t have to have a reason, COVID-19 is enough.”
Anderson is also busy sending out absentee ballots to Elkhart County residents. He said he’s received more absentee applications in the past couple of weeks than he did during the entire 2016 presidential election.
“We are so far above past years in terms of the number of ballots that we've mailed and in terms of the number of applications that we've mailed. It is just craziness,” Anderson said.
Election officials are encouraging everyone to send in their absentee ballots as soon as possible.
“The sooner they can get them back, the sooner we can get them processed, and be ready for the tallying on election day because nothing gets counted before election day.”
You don’t have to vote by mail though. There is still the option to vote in person in all Indiana counties, with some added precautionary measures.
The state is allocating personal protective equipment for voting locations across Indiana.
Precautions are being taken at the local level too. In St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, they’re collecting their own PPE to provide for voters. That includes disposable styluses for people using voting machines.
“You can walk into any one of the [voting locations] and vote, but of course there are some challenges there too,” Glenn said. “We’ll have to make sure there is social distancing.”
Indiana is just one of 15 states to postpone their primary elections because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s all in the name of controlling the spread of the virus and it’s something that’s affected those on the 2020 ballot.
“There’s a lot of things that we can’t do right now. There are fundraisers, there’s meet and greets,” Jake Teshka, who’s running for State Representative, said.
Teshka says the possibility of a pandemic interrupting this election cycle never crossed his mind.
“Businesses are on the brink. Folks are out of work. It’s a really tough time, but I still think this is a critically important race,” Teshka said. “If you’re immune-compromised at all, if you fall under one of those high-risk categories, I would really suggest getting that absentee ballot, and still voting. It’s a critically important race.”
US Congresswoman Jackie Walorski is also on the ballot this year. She feels more or less the same way.
“I think that nobody will ever forget this,” Walorski said. “Everybody’s in this together. We’re getting through this together. It’s just very very different. I don’t think people should fear going to vote. This is a part of our democracy.”
The times are definitely uncertain. But one thing is for sure…
“I just want to encourage people, we are going to beat this. We’re going to talk about this sometime. Just hang on and we’ll get there soon,” Walorski said.
If you still need to send in your application for an absentee ballot, you can visit the state of Indiana’s website to download the application or call your local clerk’s office to request to have one mailed to you.
Once you have it filled out, just mail it back and in a few days, check your mail for your absentee ballot.
If you’re already registered to vote, you can also directly download an absentee ballot from the state’s website.
How to Contact Your Local Election Clerk:
St. Joseph County --- (574)-235-9635 or firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Joseph County Election Board
101 S Main Street
South Bend, IN 46601
Elkhart County --- (574)-535-6469 or Elkhartcoabsentee@elkhartcounty.com
Elkhart County Election Board
101 N. Main Street, Rm. 204
Goshen, IN 46526
LaGrange County --- (260) 499-6392
LaGrange County Voter Registration
105 North Detroit Street
LaGrange, IN 46761
Marshall County --- (574) 936-8922
Marshall County Clerk's Office
211 W Madison Street
Plymouth, IN 46563
Fulton County --- (574) 223-7713
Fulton County Circuit Court Clerk
815 Main Street
Rochester, IN 46975
Kosciusko County --- (574) 372-2332
Kosciusko County Circuit Court
121 North Lake Street, D162
Warsaw, IN 46580
Pulaski County --- (574) 946-4401
Pulaski Co. Circuit Court Clerk
112 E. Main Street Room 230
Winamac, IN 46996
Starke County --- (574) 772-9160
Starke County Election Courthouse
53 East Washington Street
Knox, IN 46534