Seasonal election workers, clerk’s office employees and even people from temp agencies are processing thousands of absentee ballots every 24 hours.
The deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Indiana is Oct. 22
Many Hoosiers have already returned their ballots. Marion County has mailed out 91,731 ballots, and 51,988 ballots have been returned. Meanwhile, Hamilton County has mailed 45,641 ballots and received 29,250.
After filling out an application, some voters may have questions about what comes next.
To make sure your ballot is done correctly and returned on time, here are some answers to common mail-in ballot questions.
What are some common issues with mail-in voting?
In most cases, the biggest issue with mail-in ballots is a voter’s signature.
Russell Hollis, a deputy director with Marion County Clerk’s Office, said some ballots are returned without signatures. Other times, a voter’s ballot signature doesn’t match up with the signature an election board has from an application.
“That is a common mistake,” Hollis said.
Because of a lawsuit resolved earlier this year, election officials must now give voters the opportunity to fix a mismatched signature. These officials still encourage voters to check to make sure everything is correct the first time around to avoid extra paperwork and potential complications.
Hamilton County Elections Administrator Beth Sheller said she receives about 10 ballots a day without a signature despite her office buying special red stamps to clearly mark where it needs to be signed.
“I don’t know how else to get them,” Sheller said.
Sheller also said people don’t sign or mark a reason why they’re voting absentee by mail, which is required in Indiana.
“Or they make a little box and make up their own reason, which is not acceptable,” Sheller said.
Additionally, some voters forget to change their registration address after moving. Sheller said. If the voter lives in the same county, it may still be possible to vote, but they must contact the election office.
Occasionally, there will be a problem with how the ballot was sent out.
Ballots are expected to come to voters with two sets of initials, which are a sign of bipartisan approval. Not having both sets of initials could get a ballot disqualified, so voters should check for the initials when they first get their ballot.
I requested my ballot but haven’t gotten it. When should I start to worry?
With Election Day around two weeks away, Hollis said voters should reach out to their election board if they haven’t received their ballot within a week.
Hollis said the Marion County election board is mailing ballots within about a day of receiving an application.
However, voters can go into the election office and complete an affidavit that says they have not received their ballot in the mail.
If a voter does this and then the ballot comes, they can mark it out and return it.
Hollis said to write “spoil” on that ballot, put lines through the barcode on the envelope and the ballot and also write “canceled” on the return envelope and the secrecy envelope.
“Since there is postage on the return envelope, they can just drop it in the mail and mail it back to us,” Hollis said.
Can I vote in person after I requested a mail-in ballot?
In-person voting is allowed in certain circumstances after a voter has requested a mail-in ballot, but the rules are different for early voting and Election Day.
Sheller said early voting is allowed if someone never got a ballot, the ballot was defective or the voter spoiled the ballot — for example, marking the wrong candidate.
“The law allows for different things, but we have to follow it to the T,” Sheller said.
Voters can’t walk in and vote early just because they changed their mind on how they want to vote. However, on Election Day, they are allowed to surrender their mail-in ballot for no specific reason and vote at the polls.
“I think the rules are awesome the way they’re set up,” Sheller said. “It gives everyone an opportunity to vote in person if they want to, that changed their mind or if there’s something wrong with the ballot.”
Something is wrong with my ballot. What do I do?
If there is an issue with a ballot, contact the election office immediately.
Each ballot comes with an instruction sheet, Sheller said. Voters should check that and make sure everything on their ballot is correct, including the bipartisan initials.
“If by chance something was missing, then we will get that rectified by getting them the missing information,” Sheller said.
How do I turn in my ballot?
The simplest way to return an absentee ballot is to just mail it back. Mailing through the U.S. Postal Service or a bonded courier are both acceptable.
However, concerns about return times, personal inconvenience or other issues might mean a voter wants to drop it off another way.
In Marion County, the ballot can be returned to the election office inside the City-County Building or at an east-side office located at 3737 East Washington St.
Hollis said voters dropping off their ballot can go straight into the building and don’t have to stand with those voting in-person.
“if you are simply dropping off your absentee ballot, you do not need to wait in line,” Hollis said.
The Hamilton County Election Board office, located in the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center, has a drop-off box set up before building security for voter convenience.
“We’re trying to make it as simple as possible,” Sheller said.
In almost all cases, voters have to be the ones to drop off their own ballots, so don’t hand over ballots to a well-meaning neighbor, coworker or friend who might be on their way to the election board office.
Exceptions are allowed for people who live in the same household. Someone may also return another’s ballot if they hold power of attorney for that person.
These people will need fill out an ABS-19 form, and powers of attorney may have to provide documentation if it is not already on file with the election board.
Ballots must be received by noon on Election Day for the vote to count.
Contact Pulliam Fellow Lydia Gerike at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @LydiaGerike.
Read or Share this story: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/19/indiana-voting-vote-mail-mistakes-avoid/3709679001/