INDIANAPOLIS — A federal appeals court is giving a group of voting-rights advocates another chance to make the case that Indiana should allow no-excuse absentee voting.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the motion Tuesday for an expedited appeal in the Indiana Vote By Mail complaint asking for no-excuse mail-in voting.
The lawsuit was initially filed by Indiana Vote By Mail. But U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Hanlon denied its motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the state to change its vote by mail rules in August. As the Nov. 3 election draws nearer, the call for action to allow no-excuse mail voting has been growing.
William Groth, an Indianapolis attorney representing Indiana Vote By Mail, said this issue is about opening access to the polls to as many Hoosiers as possible.
“This issue is important to all Indiana voters during the pandemic,” Groth said. “They need to have the same option to vote safely and securely by mail as they did in the spring primary.”
At the time of the primary June 2, Indiana had a little more than 35,000 positive cases of coronavirus. This week, the State Department of Health is reporting more than 95,000 new cases of the highly contagious virus.
To get an absentee ballot in Indiana, voters must have one of 11 listed excuses in the application, including being older than 65 years or out of the county on the date of the election.
Jonathan Weinzapfel, Democratic nominee for Indiana attorney general, criticized the state’s use of courts to debate no-excuse mail-in voting rather than using faster methods used in the primary election.
“They could call a meeting this week and allow people to vote by mail, just like they did during the primary election,” Weinzapfel said in a news release. “Instead, they are hiding behind legal arguments that even the courts aren’t buying.”
The bipartisan Indiana Election Commission decision to allow no-excuse absentee voting for Indiana residents in the primary election was made on March 25, along with the decision to delay the primary from May to June.
The state is facing other voting-related court challenges.
On July 31, Common Cause Indiana and the state conference of the NAACP filed suit to force Secretary of State Connie Lawson and members of the Election Commission to count absentee ballots received past the noon deadline on Nov. 3.
In an Indiana Election Committee virtual meeting on Aug. 11, the four members of the committee were divided along party lines on the issue of expanding mail-in voting to all, with the two Democrat members in support of the change and the two Republican members in opposition.
On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled that absentee ballots cannot be rejected solely on the basis of non-matching signatures. Voters will be instead notified of the issue and allowed a hearing to retain their vote.
The deadline to register to vote for the general election is Oct. 5. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 22. This can be done on the Indiana Voter Registration website.