May 5 primary postponed due to coronavirus threat
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s political leaders announced Friday that they agreed to push back the state primary by nearly a month, to June 2, and to allow all voters to cast mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said during a news conference with the state GOP and Democratic Party chairmen that only during such emergency times would he support moving the primary from its scheduled May 5 date.
“My view on that fast-approaching primary election is it needed to be pushed back in order to ensure the safety of our county employees, our poll workers and voters, themselves,” Holcomb said.
The announcement came as state health officials reported Friday that Indiana now had COVID-19 cases in all the state’s major population centers, with cases now being confirmed in the Evansville and Terre Haute areas. Indiana’s 23 new cases reported Friday raised the statewide total to 79, including three patients who died.
Holcomb had endorsed delaying the primary on Thursday, but he said Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson was leading discussions with state political party leaders in an attempt to reach a consensus.
Neighboring Ohio and Kentucky are among at least seven other states that have postponed their primaries, and others are considering increased voting by mail.
Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody and Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer wrote a joint letter to the state election commission last week asking for it to relax the rules for requesting mail-in absentee ballots.
Lawson said the election commission will meet next week to sign off on the suspension of the state’s rules limiting who can request mail-in ballots. Those are ordinarily limited to voters who swear under oath that one of the qualifying reasons applies to them, including that they’ll be traveling or working all 12 hours that polls are open and unable to get to their voting site, or that they’re sick, disabled or older than 65.
Elections officials still are planning to have early voting sites open in each county and to have polling locations open on the day of the primary, Lawson said.
Indiana has no challenged races for statewide elected offices in this year’s primary and it is uncertain whether the Democratic presidential race will remain undecided. Multiple candidates are seeking nominations for congressional seats being given up by Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky and Republican Rep. Susan Brooks.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.