Understanding checks and balances of Indiana’s absentee ballot counting process


INDIANAPOLIS — Disagreements over the objectivity of the electoral process are taking center stage this election cycle, from the Electoral College to mail-in ballots. We are not a battleground state in Indiana and we do not send out mass mail-in ballots.

We still wanted to take a closer look at the ballot counting process. Fortunately, there are at least seven specific examples of checks and balances within the process the clerk’s offices use for preventing voter fraud while counting absentee ballots.

Each state has its own election laws. In Indiana, there’s a balance of Republican and Democratic oversight.

“I feel somewhat sorry for them because it’s a lot of hard work,” Kathy Williams said.

Williams is the Hamilton County Clerk and she is happy she does not serve in a battleground state. She does make sure every legal vote that comes into her county is counted.

“There are checks and balances all the way through the process,” Williams explained.

For example, for absentee ballots, each one is logged in the state voter registration system after it is received. They match it up with the voter’s application and make sure they match. If they do not, a letter is sent to the voter.

On Election Day, the office prints out a precinct report for each counting team, comprised of a Democrat and a Republican. That team verifies the correct number of ballots for its specific precinct.

“Once they agree to that, then they start physically opening the ballots,” Williams explained.

This system of checks and balances is why Williams firmly believes people in Indiana should have faith in our system.

Again, in Indiana, we do not automatically send ballots to everyone as some other states do. Those are the ballots mostly coming into question.

As for the electoral process as a whole, some experts say concerns surrounding the legitimacy of it is hurting our democracy.

“This has the unfortunate consequence of leading half the country to view the outcome of this election as illegitimate,” Steven Webster, Assistant Professor of Political Science at IU, said. “This is problematic because this strikes directly to the health of our democratic system.”

Webster is concerned it will take a long time to undo the damage of the clash over the electoral process.

“This is and always has been the biggest concern for me about this election is the sort of further division between partisans about what is true and what is fiction,” Webster said. “We know that partisans like to engage in what is known as motivated reasoning. So, Americans aren’t really looking for facts so much as they’re looking for things that fit their predispositions. I think that’s problematic in its own right but that problem becomes exacerbated when you have a sitting President of the United States claim from the White House press briefing room claiming without any evidence that there’s fraud throughout the country.”

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