INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that aimed to make mail-in ballots available to all Indiana voters for this fall’s election because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The record number of Indiana residents voting by mail this fall were warned to return their ballots in time to meet a noon Election Day deadline as a judge in a separate lawsuit put an extension she had ordered on hold.
The Chicago-based appeals court on Tuesday upheld a judge’s ruling in August that state officials had discretion in how to allow mail voting and that voters not wanting to cast ballots on Election Day had the option of going to early voting sites for nearly a month before then.
The group Indiana Vote By Mail and several voters concerned about the risks of COVID-19 exposure at polling stations sued elections officials in April, seeking a court order to extend the no-excuse mail-in balloting that Indiana allowed for the spring primary election to this fall’s general election.
Indiana’s mail-in voting limits only allow people to vote by mail if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older or being absent from their home counties on Election Day.
In the separate lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker halted implementation Tuesday of an order she issued last week telling state election officials to count mail-in ballots if they are postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by voting offices no later than Nov. 13.
Barker wrote that she didn’t want to give voters “a false sense of security” as state officials are asking the federal appeals court to overturn her decision against the noon Election Day deadline for mail-in ballots to arrive at county election offices.
“Indiana voters eligible to and desirous of voting by absentee ballot are encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of Indiana’s October 22, 2020 deadline, and, upon receipt, to promptly complete and return their absentee ballots without delay,” Barker wrote.
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