ANDERSON — A federal court has ruled that absentee ballots mailed with a postmark of Nov. 3 have to be counted in Indiana through Nov. 13.
The ruling by the federal court will have an impact on Election Day returns, with the likelihood that the final count will not be completed until mid-November.
Republicans and Democrats are viewing the court’s decision with different perspectives. Republicans believe existing state law should be followed, while Democrats contend that it will make sure all votes are tabulated.
“This is a big win for our state,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. “We saw in the June primary over 500,000 Hoosiers attempt to vote absentee in the mail. Unfortunately, the arbitrary noon deadline forced many to have to vote in person, causing unsafe crowding during a public health crisis.
“The data show that many Hoosiers are opting to vote absentee to stay safe during this pandemic,” he continued. “We should be giving every opportunity for them to do so. Counting absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day is a smart step to maintaining our constitutional right to vote while allowing all Hoosiers to protect their health.”
Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said he expects an appeal to the ruling to be filed by the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
“I’m concerned when we deviate from laws passed by the legislature,” he said. “We should follow the laws as written.”
Hupfer said there was plenty of time for people to cast ballots, starting in July.
“The Secretary of State has to certify the election results in 10 days,” he said.
Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt said her office has not received any information from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office regarding the federal court ruling.
“The count is not completed now until 10 days after the election to allow provisional voters to complete the process,” she said.
Pratt said, with the court ruling, the final count would take place on Nov. 13.
“It will cause a delay in the final count depending on how many absentee ballots are received after Election Day,” she said.
Russ Willis, chairman of the Madison County Republican Party and a member of the county Election Board, said he didn’t see the need to extend the absentee ballot deadline.
“The procedures have been in place for decades,” he said. “There are deadlines for everything and consequences if you miss them.”
Willis said the consequence prior to this year was if the ballot was not mailed on time the vote didn’t count.
“I know there are issues with the post office, but those are being worked out,” he said. “Locally, the turnaround has been just a few days.”
Willis said the final count from the Nov. 3 General Election could be delayed for 10 days, which could have an impact on close races.
Ludy Watkins, chairwoman of the Madison County Democratic Party, said the court ruling was a great move.
“The ballots will be counted up to that point,” she said. “It provides security for people voting by mail that their vote will be counted.”
Watkins agreed that if a particular race is close the extension of the deadline could make a difference in the outcome.