ANDERSON — With the status of the upcoming primary remaining an unknown as a result of the COVID-19 virus, local residents are being encouraged to cast absentee ballots.

The Madison County Election Board on Wednesday decided to delay ordering additional paper ballot voting machines until after the primary, which has been moved to June 2.

Russ Willis, the Republican Party member of the Election Board, said the Indiana Election Commission has waived the requirement to provide a reason for casting an absentee ballot by mail.

When requesting an absentee ballot, the voter must specify which party ballot is being sought, Willis said.

The application for an absentee ballot is available on the county’s website at www.madisoncounty.in.gov.

Voters with questions can contact the election room of the Madison County Clerk’s Office at 765-641-9459.

Clerk Olivia Pratt said it would be ideal if officials can get people to vote by absentee ballot.

Following the Indiana Election Commission decision to delay the primary from May 5 to June 2, the county is getting prepared, Pratt said.

Willis and Ludy Watkins, the Democratic Party representative on the Election Board, both expressed concerns about getting the necessary five poll workers for each of the in-person voting sites for the primary.

Pratt said the county is looking at reducing the number of voting sites for the primary from 50.

Early voting at the Madison County Government Center is set to begin on May 5.

Pratt said a different location will have to be found at the courthouse to maintain social distancing.

Willis said the Election Board is still hoping to open satellite voting sites a week prior to the primary.

The Election Board is also seeking volunteers in the medical profession to help with voting by traveling boards at area nursing homes.

Earlier this month, the Madison County Council voted to approve the purchase of 170 additional voting machines and 15 tabulators at a cost of $766,376 through a four-year lease/purchase agreement.

Pratt said the Election Board will try to reach a compromise with the county commissioners to purchase 100 additional paper ballot voting machines and no tabulators.

“We won’t need them for the primary,” she said. “We will need more machines for the fall election.”

Pratt said she didn’t know what the cost of 100 machines would be.

Election Board attorney Jeff Graham said the month’s delay of the primary gives the board some breathing room.

“Hopefully we can get things worked out by November,” Graham said, referring to the general election on Nov. 3.

Last year the County Council voted to purchase 170 new paper ballot voting machines in anticipation of the county going to vote centers in 2020.

The Election Board and County Council both approved a vote center resolution, but the Madison County Board of Commissioners failed to adopt the resolution by the March 5 deadline.

Follow Ken de la Bastide

on Twitter @KendelaBastide,

or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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