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Appeals court rejects expansion of Indiana vote-by-mail eligibility

Court rejects expansion of Indiana vote-by-mail eligibility

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A federal appeals court has rejected a plea to expand absentee vote-by-mail to all age groups in Indiana.

The three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Indiana’s age limit on unlimited voting by mail does not violate the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the nation’s voting age to 18.

Indiana law allows anyone age 65 or over to vote absentee by mail without providing a specific reason.

For those under 65, voters must meet one of a series of other criteria for an absentee ballot.

During Indiana’s delayed 2020 primary election, state officials suspended those rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of Indiana voters sued hoping to make the change permanent.

“Absentee voting is available for individuals who, because of vocation, occupation, or physical condition, cannot get to the polls on election day. Indiana has included ‘elderly’ voters among this group—and with good reason,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote for the majority. “It represents a sound legislative judgment that these individuals encounter special barriers in exercising their right to vote. Eliminating those barriers hardly creates a material burden on the exercise of the franchise by other citizens.”

In his dissenting opinion, Judge John Lee argued Indiana’s vote-by-mail restrictions may be unconstitutional, and that the case should be sent back to district court in Indianapolis for more arguments. 

“It is undisputed that some Indiana voters—including appellants—are prohibited from voting absentee and are required to cast their ballots in person, solely because of their age,” Judge Lee wrote. “The practical difficulties of casting a ballot in person in Indiana, including the challenges of locating and physically going to a polling place during regular hours and any costs related to doing so (such as lost wages or child care costs), to the extent they are imposed on appellants because of their age, may rise to such a level as to render that method of voting unconstitutionally ‘cumbersome,’ when compared to the absentee-voting procedure to which the elderly are entitled.”