Absentee ballots are ready to be mailed to voters from the election office. Staff photo by Tom Russo
Absentee ballots are ready to be mailed to voters from the election office. Staff photo by Tom Russo
HANCOCK COUNTY — The primary election, which has been pushed back to June 2, is shaping up to be highly unusual, with widespread mail-in voting likely, limited early voting and many fewer vote centers open on Election Day.

Election officials are encouraging voters to use mail-in ballots, limiting in-person contact because of the coronavirus threat.

The Hancock County Election Office has already begun sending out mail-in ballots to voters who have requested them. Although voting by mail is strongly recommended by state and local election officials, it is not the default. Voters will need to request a mail-in ballot.

In-person voting will also be available, although the Indiana Election Commission has limited early voting to one week, May 26 through June 1, in addition to in-person voting on Election Day, June 2.

In order to make sure they are able to vote in the primary election, voters must be registered by May 5. Residents who have an Indiana drivers’ license or another form of state-issued identification may register online at indianavoters.com. Voter registration status can also be checked using the website.

Indiana residents who do not have those forms of ID should call the Hancock County Election Office at 317-477-1109 to arrange to pick up and return a registration form. Forms can also be sent and returned by mail.

A mail-in ballot can also be requested at indianavoters.com, or by calling the election office. Ballots must be requested by May 21.

The Indiana Election Division decided to allow all voters to vote via mail without providing a reason, as is typically required, as part of a slate of policy changes intended to make voting easier amid the pandemic. It also decided to allow family members to pick up and drop off ballots for those confined to their homes and reduced the number of poll workers required at each voting location.

During in-person voting, voters will be required to practice social distancing, and personal protective equipment will be provided to poll workers. The workers are drawn from Hancock County’s political parties, with one Republican and one Democrat required to be present at each polling place at all times.

The county election board has approved four vote-center locations for early voting and Election Day: the Hancock County Courthouse Annex and the main branch of the Hancock County Library in Greenfield; the Sugar Creek branch of the library in New Palestine; and the Buck Creek Township Fire Department. The county normally has a dozen vote centers on Election Day.

Information on in-person voting will be distributed by mail once dates and locations are finalized.

All rule changes apply to the primary election only. No changes have been made to procedures for the general election in November.

Janice Silvey, the chair of the Hancock County Republican Party, said she had plenty of poll workers ready to go for the original May 5 election date and now has more volunteers than she needs.

“I’m not having any problem right now,” Silvey said. “I have faith in our election office.”

Randy Johnson, the chair of the county’s Democratic Party, said he, too, has filled all of his slots for poll workers for the election. Johnson said while calling his regular volunteers about working at the polls, about 40 percent were not willing to do so this year. The other 60 percent were interested, after Johnson answered questions about how their health would be protected.

“They want to make sure they’ve got all their safety gear,” he said.

Voters for each party will also select a slate of local representatives to send to their party’s conventions, each scheduled to be held in June.

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