The Indiana Election Commission, urged by Gov. Eric Holcomb, changed the rules for the June 2 primary, allowing all registered voters to cast their ballots by mail.
The commission should do the same in November.
For the primary, election officials were concerned about potential transmission of the coronavirus and about a shortfall of poll site volunteers. Mail-in voting, officials believed, would reduce voter crowding and the need for volunteers, thereby enabling those at the polls to maintain social distancing and follow other public health directives related to the coronavirus.
At least a half million Hoosiers requested absentee ballots. In Marion County alone, more than 124,000 people applied for mail-in ballots in the primary, a 20-fold increase over the number of such ballots processed for the 2016 primary.
A small percentage of Hoosiers who applied for absentee ballots complained that they never received them, and election results in some counties were delayed by an increase in mail-ins. Otherwise, election officials and voters reported few problems associated with voting by mail.
It’s likely that many of those who voted by mail would not have risked going to the polls. It’s also likely that many discovered voting by mail is easy and would opt for it in the November general election.
But mail-in voting might not be an option for many Hoosiers in the fall.
People are lining up on both sides of the issue. Some oppose expanded mail-in voting eligibility, maintaining that the method is susceptible to fraud. Others support it, noting that it offers another option for voting and therefore engages more Hoosiers in the democratic process.
The first argument is not persuasive.
Over the past 20 years, The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has kept track of documented voter fraud cases across the country. Only about 200 of the 1,200 cases involved mail-in ballots. During that time more than 250 million ballots were mailed.
The argument in favor of mail-in voting in the November election is highly persuasive, particularly when you consider that more Hoosiers generally vote in general elections and the coronavirus pandemic will likely continue to be a major concern.
Holcomb should again urge the state election commission to choose the safest option that enfranchises the most voters.
Mail-in voting has proved to be practical, accurate and dependable. In the primary, it helped Hoosiers exercise their right to vote. It would do the same in November.