Indiana mail-in ballots can be counted later, judge says

(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled Indiana must accept mail-in ballots up to 10 days after the Nov. 3 general election, eliminating a state law that calls for votes to arrive by noon on election day.

In a lawsuit filed by Common Cause Indiana, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled the state must count all mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received up to 10 days after election day.

The state argued extending the deadline would confuse voters, add work for county election officials and delay vote counting.

“This is a huge win for Hoosier voters,” Julia Vaughn, policy director at Common Cause Indiana, said. “Indiana has seen a surge in requests for mail-in ballots and this ruling will help ensure all those voters who choose to vote by mail do not face the unnecessary barrier of an overly strict return deadline in making their voice heard.”

More than 400,000 Indiana voters have already requested mail-in ballots. During the 2016 presidential election, around 150,000 were requested. In the June primary, half the ballots were cast by mail.

According to the lawsuit, delays occurred in processing mail-in ballot requests and many mail-in ballots were delivered late during the primary. Common Cause claimed thousands of voters did not have ballots counted because of the return deadline.

The judge agreed the surge in mail-in ballots led to documented delays in both sending ballots to voters and ballots being received by the deadline. She cited Marion County, where 1,514 ballots were rejected only because they came in past the noon deadline, and Hamilton County, where 435 similar ballots were rejected.

In her ruling, Barker said those two counties represent 20% of Indiana’s population.

She called Indiana’s noon deadline arbitrary and an anachronistic practice and ruled the deadline places an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.

The state is reviewing the ruling, according to the Associated Press,

This article was initially published at TheCenterSquare

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