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Record number of absentee ballots expected, coronavirus not a legit excuse

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Even with the pandemic, the procedures for the November election will go on as it has in years past for Hoosier voters.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson said Wednesday that just being afraid of the coronavirus is not enough to get an absentee ballot. She said they have to be truly quarantined at their home to qualify for a medical exception, which means ongoing isolation and no trips to the store or other places.

Otherwise, there are other options available to voters worried about long lines.

“I want to make it clear that we are going forward with a normal election process here in Indiana,” Lawson said Wednesday as part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly virtual press conference.

Lawson said pandemic or no pandemic, the rules still apply.

In Indiana, there are 11 legal reasons to request an absentee-by-mail ballot, for example if you’re going to be out of town on Election Day or if you are over the age of 65.

“If you get an application to vote absentee, it’s really up to the voter to decide which one of those reasons applies to you, the voter,” Lawson said.

While medical confinement is a legitimate reason for either an injury or an illness, the fear that you’ll get the coronavirus in line at the polls is not.

“If you’re still going to the grocery store and running other errands, you’re not confined to your home,” Lawson said.

If you do plan to vote absentee-by-mail, Lawson said request your ballot at least 15 days in advance of Election Day and return it at least seven days prior to the election to make sure it’s counted.

Lawson’s office is working with the United States Postal Service to make sure the distinctive envelopes are prioritized coming or going.

But if you don’t qualify for mailing your ballot and are worried about long lines, Lawson advised people vote early in person.

“Indiana has one (of the) longest early voting periods in the country,” she said.

That’s because it opens 28 days before Election Day. This year that means Oct. 6.

For most counties it’s offered in the clerk’s office, but some places offer additional locations.

“My advice again would be, if you’re worried about getting caught in a long line on Election Day, vote closer to that Oct. 6 opening of early voting, rather than waiting until the close of early voting which is at noon on Nov. 2,” Lawson said.

There’s an unprecedented number of absentee ballots expected.

Lawson expects about 1.5 million Hoosiers to vote in the mail this year. There’s already been more than 99,000 requests received statewide with almost 10 weeks still to go to Election Day.

Compare that to 2016 when just 53,818 requests were made.

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