Early voting underway in Indiana with COVID-19 precautions

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INDIANAPOLIS – Voters heading to the polls to cast early ballots in the June 2 primary election can expect to see several changes intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Early voting started Tuesday morning and extra precautions and restrictions were immediately apparent at the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis.

“Voters should expect the election workers to wear masks,” said Marion County Clerk Deputy Director, Russell Hollis.  “The election workers will have personal protective equipment as well, such as plexiglass that helps protect them from voters and voters from the election workers.”

Hand sanitizer stations were also set up at each table throughout the polling site in the Marion County Clerk’s office.

“And we have painter’s tape on the inside of the voting locations, and we will use chalk outside of the voting locations as well to enforce our six-foot social distancing rule,” Hollis said.

The first day of early voting saw a “slow but somewhat steady” trickle of voters coming into the office, Hollis said.  Voters could also be seen wearing their own masks as they walked in the door.

“I’m getting very used to what’s considered now the new norm,” said Marion County voter, Kem Moore.  “But I felt very safe coming here today.”

“Strange, very strange, but very necessary,” said Marion County voter Darryl Fraylon.  “I was glad to see that this entity seems to be doing its part to protect the public.”

In addition to anti-coronavirus precautions at polling locations, COVID-19 has prompted other changes to in-person early voting in this year’s primary.  Hoosiers wishing to vote in person before June 2 have less time to do that compared to previous years.  Indiana voters have five or six days to cast in-person early ballots, depending on which county they’re in.

“Typically, voters have approximately 28 days of in-person early voting, so that is a substantial change,” Hollis said.

Many counties also have fewer polling locations available for early voting this year.  Many of the polling sites have different hours and days of operation in different counties.  

Marion County has three voting locations open for early voting.  Those are located at the Marion County Clerk’s office inside the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis, at the former Broad Ripple High School building, and at Beech Grove High School.

Marion County voters will likely notice biggest change on the day of the primary, June 2.

“On election day this year, there will only be 22 voting locations,” Hollis said.  “In the past, there were over 200.”

Hollis said it has been difficult to recruit poll workers this year, which is another effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hollis expects many Hoosiers to vote my mail for this year’s primary since the state relaxed requirements for Hoosiers to request an absentee ballot.  The deadline to request a mail-in ballot expired on May 21.

Bill Moreau, President of the non-partisan Indiana Citizen Education Foundation, said he was encouraged by the way this year’s primary election is being handled by the Indiana Election Commission.  The group strongly supported allowing Hoosiers to request absentee ballots without being required to provide a reason for the request.

“We have reviewed the IEC’s guidelines for in-person voting,” Moreau said in a statement.  “They appear to be very comprehensive and helpful.”

“The good news is that when you combine the record level of absentee voting with the availability of early, in-person voting, the number of voters showing up on June 2nd should be pretty low, thereby lowering the chance of crowds that would compromise social distancing,” Moreau said.

Moreau’s advice to in-person voters was to “budget plenty of time to vote, be patient and wear a mask.”

Election officials encourage voters to check the Secretary of State’s voter information website for information on polling locations.  You can also find your county clerk’s office here.

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