By District Chair Adam Dickey
In March, Governor Eric Holcomb made a profound statement as the Coronavirus continued to descend on Indiana: "As citizens we all have a right to elect our leaders in a free and open and, of course, a safe environment." Moments later he announced with political leaders an agreement between the parties to allow “no excuse” absentee voting to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Over 500,000 Hoosiers of all political stripes utilized this opportunity to cast their vote by mail in the June primary election.
Now, new daily cases are four to five times higher than when Holcomb made his pronouncement. But today, Holcomb’s tune has changed. He’s refusing to expand vote by mail to every Hoosier, even as the virus spreads and nearly 3,000 Hoosiers have lost their lives.
That notion may have applied if the health crisis had abated. It hasn’t. In fact, it’s worse. Businesses are limiting customers, are on modified hours, and require employees to undergo health screenings. Government bodies are meeting by video conference and both national political party conventions will be held virtually. The Indiana Election Commission, the body charged with overseeing the state’s elections, meets via video link. Many Hoosier continue to shelter at home or limit their personal contacts out of a genuine concern for contracting the virus and the impact it can have on their health or the health of others in their families.
An in-person election means an increase in the transmission of COVID-19. I genuinely worry about the many election workers who will be required to work 12 hours on Election Day in an enclosed space while interacting with hundreds of people throughout the course of the day.
Some have suggested that the Governor could act later if this pandemic worsens. However, this notion forgets the administrative process and time required to order absentee ballots, process them via U.S. mail, and ensure voters return them by Election Day. You don’t start training for a marathon the day before the race. The window to act in now, not October.
There is no reason why anyone should have to risk their life to exercise their constitutional right to vote. For generations, Hoosier common sense has been a defining aspect of our state character. That same common sense tells us that providing for “no excuse” absentee voting only enhances our system in this pandemic and may well save lives.
Governor Holcomb, it is time to meet the promise you proclaimed in March. Let every Hoosier have their right to elect our leaders in a free, open, and safe environment.