Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning Hoosiers not to expect results on election night due to the extra time it will take to count the record number of mail-in ballots for this year's primary elections. Screenshot
Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning Hoosiers not to expect results on election night due to the extra time it will take to count the record number of mail-in ballots for this year's primary elections. Screenshot
Hoosiers should be prepared to wait a day or two beyond June 2 to find out which candidates won in this year's primary elections.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson said Friday the record number of mail-in ballots and the anticipated shortage of people to process them, along with the need to follow COVID-19 spacing and safety guidelines in county election offices, could delay election results — especially in the state's most populous counties.

"We are not expecting to have results at 7 or 8 o'clock on election night. It's going to be nearly impossible," Lawson said. "I think it's going to take two or three days, honestly, before we get the final results."

Lawson said election officials in many counties are struggling to hire the usual number of poll workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with the extra personnel they'll need to count all the absentee ballots — notwithstanding plans to provide personal protective equipment to everyone working the election.

"The counties are recruiting as many central count teams as they can and that's a crucial part of the election process, so if you don't have the entire day to work (at the polls) on election day, you might think about working the entire night processing absentee ballots — if not longer."

As of Friday morning, Lawson said a total of 330,657 mail-in absentee ballots already have been filled out and returned by Hoosier voters, with 18 days still to go until election day.

In comparison, just 53,818 mail-in absentee ballots were cast in the 2016 primary election, Lawson said.

This year, however, Hoosiers are not required to have a specific reason for voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"One of the most effective ways to protect yourself and keep your poll workers safe is to vote absentee by mail," Lawson said. "I encourage all voters to vote absentee in the June 2 primary."

Registered Hoosier voters have until Thursday to submit a mail-in absentee ballot request, either online by logging into their registration record at IndianaVoters.com, or by printing, filling out and submitting the paper form from the secretary of state's website: in.gov/sos.

Hoosiers voting by mail should mark and return their ballot as soon as possible after getting it, since ballots must be received by their county election office no later than noon on June 2 to be counted in the final tally.

In-person early voting also will be available on a limited basis this year from May 26 to June 1, and traditional polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 2.

Lawson said she didn't really consider switching to an all mail-in election, as some states did due to COVID-19, since that likely would require legislative approval, and she knows lots of Hoosiers, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, simply prefer to vote in person — no matter what.

"There are many people in the state of Indiana for whom voting on election day is sacred rite for them. They want to vote, in person, in the election, and we did not want to take that away from them," Lawson said.

Indeed, Holcomb said while it's smartest this year for Hoosiers to vote from afar, he still plans to vote in person. However, the governor said he may vote early to avoid possibly running into a crowd at his polling place on election day.

"As long as we have the means to safely vote in person, I'm one of those people who is going to vote in person. Thankfully, we have a lot of options to vote safely," Holcomb said.

Lawson was noncommittal on whether Hoosiers again will have the opportunity to vote by mail without needing a legally sanctioned excuse in the Nov. 3 general election.

"If we need to do it in November, we can do it," Lawson said. "But that decision won't be made until this primary election is over and we see how things have gone, and on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and our health commissioner and others when we get closer to the election."
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