INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Election Commission on Wednesday officially approved moving the primary election to June 2 while Gov. Eric Holcomb and key staff addressed the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Indiana now has 477 positive cases – and is up to 14 deaths.
Holcomb said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday and “was able to share with him what our concerns were. Obviously, I'm like most governors in the country, seeking Title 32 authority to help pay for our Guard.
“We're very encouraged by what we are hearing from the administration and I hope that ultimate decision by the president will come soon.”
President Donald Trump has approved activation of National Guard troops in California, New York and Washington state to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
During so-called Title 32 activations, the federal government funds Guard efforts while they serve in their home states.
Holcomb already activated the Indiana National Guard, which is being used to distribute medical supplies.
Earlier in the day, the Indiana Election Commission met via video conferencing to officially push the primary election to June 2 and set various election deadlines back 28 days.
“The platform we have brought here today is a tremendous step forward to an orderly movement of the election and the ability to have mail-in voting,” Democratic member Anthony Long said.
The commission has four members – two Republicans and two Democrats.
The order approved unanimously allows all Hoosiers to vote using an mail-in absentee ballot. Current law requires a voter to meet a criterion such as being out of town that day or having a disability.
Democrats want to go further and allow a voter to request the absentee ballot electronically.
The order moves toward that but doesn't guarantee it.
“If possible, the Indiana Election Division shall, create a system preferably through the statewide voter registration system and Indianavoters.com, the state's online voter portal, for a voter to submit an absentee ballot application online to a county election board. An electronic copy of the voter's signature from the voter's registration record will be affixed to only those applications submitted through the online portal,” the commission order said.
Republican commission member Zachary Klutz said moving an election is not as simple as changing the date and thanked staff from both parties. He said he knows there are challenges with no-fault absentee voting but noted all facets of society are having to change how they operate.
“Be patient, be flexible, be open-minded,” he said.
Holcomb and Republicans felt the governor had the authority to move the election date on its own. But Democrats believed the commission needed to act. So they did both.
The Indiana Election Commission is set to meet again April 22 to address any new issues or unintended consequences that pop up. The commission also might address the topic of the Republican and Democratic state conventions slated for June.