Marion County begins counting absentee ballots, could take days

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INDIANAPOLIS – Marion County received record numbers of absentee ballots in the 2020 election.

On Monday night county election officials reported more than 213,000 absentee ballots had been received, including more than 81,000 ballots by mail. However, state law in Indiana does not allow votes to be counted until Election Day. 

Workers began counting absentee ballots at the Election Service Center in Indianapolis Tuesday morning around 9 a.m.

“Marion County is a central count county which means we have to centrally count all of our absentee ballots in one location and that’s our Election Service Center on the Eastside of Indianapolis,” said Russell Hollis, Deputy Director of the Marion County Board of Elections.

The county has hired approximately 150 workers to help count absentee ballots in what is expected to take at least a few days, though the exact timeline will become clearer as more votes are counted.

“The way that the process is designed, that does take time and that’s the reason why it will take several days to count all of our absentee ballots,” said Hollis.

“Early this morning we started counting the absentee ballots. That includes opening the absentee ballots as well as the early, in-person ballots. We matched the signatures on the applications to the signatures on the absentee envelopes,” he said. “We make sure the precinct on those envelopes and on the ballot is correct and we make sure the voter signed their absentee envelope.”

Hollis called the process ‘tedious’ and said workers are taking steps to ensure a safe, fair count. He explained all absentee ballots received prior to Election Day were secured in a vault. “It looks like a cage. Only full-time election staff are allowed inside of that vault and the ballots prior to election day. They are not allowed to leave that area,” he said.

According to Hollis, ballots are cut open by a machine and then sorted by township before election workers are given the ballots.  The next step in the process is workers remove the ballot from the envelope and ensure the voter has signed the absentee envelope. The worker has then completed their verification process and prepares the ballot for counting by giving it to a separate team of workers who take the ballot to a secure area and count them up front.

Hollis said high-speed tabulating voting machines are also being used to assist in the counting process.

“It will take some time for us to count all of the ballots, but the process will be very thorough, and it will be very accurate.”

In order to be counted, all absentee ballots must have been returned by noon on Election Day.

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