Election

USPS investigates missing Marion County absentee ballots mailed Sept. 19

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — U.S. Postal Service officials are investigating reports of absentee ballots mailed Sept. 19 going missing, according to the Marion County Clerk’s Office.

Affected voters said they faced obstacles obtaining replacement ballots ahead of Indiana’s noon deadline on Election Day.

County and postal service officials were unable to confirm what happened to the missing ballots.

The County Election Board did not provide data revealing how many voters are affected.

Several ballots mailed Sept. 19 were “just delayed” — not missing — and arrived at their intended destinations nearly four weeks after they were sent, according to election officials.

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“Voters who have not received their ballots can vote in-person during early voting or on Election Day,” said Russell Hollis, a deputy director with the clerk’s office.

But Deb Watson, an Indianapolis resident who has stage 4 cancer and is immunocompromised, said she would be risking her life by going to a polling location. Even a cold could kill her, she said. She submitted her initial request for an absentee ballot in August. County records show her ballot was mailed Sept. 19. 

Watson never received it and called election office staffers in October for guidance. She “finally talked to a real person” on her fourth attempt, she told News 8, but the person who took her call couldn’t answer her questions or find the ballot reissue request form she needed.

Watson found Form ABS-5 by searching for it on Google and immediately submitted it to the election board via email.

Her replacement ballot was sent Monday. She still hadn’t received it Thursday.

Postal workers told her it could take seven to 10 business days for the replacement ballot to arrive.

The county’s online voter portal does not allow users to track the status of replacement absentee ballots or Form ABS-5.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because it should be so simple to vote by mail. In other states, it’s a breeze. Here, it seems like it’s really hard. I know my next-door neighbors also said they didn’t get their ballots,” Watson told News 8.

Hoosiers planning to vote by mail must request absentee ballots by Thursday.

The state’s official deadline for Form ABS-5 — which can be emailed, faxed or hand-delivered to request replacement absentee ballots — is Election Day.

Hollis recommended submitting Form ABS-5 no later than Halloween.

“It really worries me that other people who are even less able and less persistent are giving up,” said Watson.

Postal Service officials are “working closely with the Indiana Secretary of State, the Marion County Board of Elections and mail service providers throughout the 2020 election cycle,” a USPS spokesperson said in an emailed statement to News 8.

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