Voting can be a complicated process, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic, which has already disrupted, and will continue to disrupt, our electoral processes. This guide to the Indiana primary elections will answer questions ranging from election rules, candidates to consider, changes in the voting process due to COVID-19, and ways to maintain student engagement in our political process despite the closure of campus buildings and stay-at-home orders imposed throughout the nation.
When is the Primary Election?
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 2nd. The original date of May 5th was pushed back 28 days by Gov. Eric Holcomb, who signed an executive order and announced the decision on Friday, March 20th.
What are the Primary Election rules?
The only prerequisite to vote in the primary election is to be a registered voter.
Indiana is a “modified open” primary state, meaning that voters do not officially declare a party affiliation on their voter registration forms and formal party affiliation is not required to vote in the primaries. Indiana election law stipulates that in order to participate in a party’s primary, a voter must have either voted for a majority of that party’s nominees in the last general election or must intend to vote for a majority of the party’s nominees in the upcoming general election. In practice, however, secret balloting makes this provision of the law unenforceable. This creates an open primary system in which voters can participate in the primary election of their choice.
Indiana residents may register to vote if they have a valid Indiana driver’s license or Indiana state identification card, are a citizen of the United States, are at least 18 years old on or before the next general, municipal or special election, have lived in the precinct for a least 30 days before the next general municipal or special election, and are not currently imprisoned after being convicted of a crime. A 17-year-old may register and vote in the primary election if the voter turns 18 on or before the next general or municipal election, but may only vote for primary candidates and may not vote on public questions such as a school referendum seeking additional funding for local public schools. In the case of the 2020 Indiana primary election, 17-year-olds are eligible to vote in the primary if they turn 18 on or before November 3, 2020.
How do I know if I am registered to vote—and if I’m not, when is the voter registration deadline?
Voters can check their registration status on indianavoters.com, which redirects voters to the official voter information portal of the Indiana Secretary of State. If a voter is unregistered, there are three simple ways to register in the future (the May 4th deadline for the upcoming election has already passed):
- Online Registration – Voters can register online at indianavoters.com with their driver’s license.
- By Mail Registration – Voters can download and print a voter registration form from www.in.gov/sos/elections/2403 and mail it in to their country’s voter registration office, the Indiana Election Division, or any BMV license branch before the voter registration deadline.
- In Person – Voters can register in person at their local registration office or BMV license branch. Although, given the current circumstances, with government offices closed or offering limited access and services, state officials encourage voters to register by mail or online.
The original voter registration deadline of April 6th was delayed by 28 days in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the election date and all corresponding deadlines were delayed to give election administrators time to figure out how to conduct a safe and secure election.
Where can I find my polling location or voting center?
Voting centers will be available in many counties despite the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find your polling location online at indianavoters.com under the “Find My Polling Location”
tab. The number of polling locations will be greatly reduced during the 2020 primary election and both county and state election officials are encouraging Indiana residents to vote by mail.
Who and What is on my Primary Ballot?
This primary election consists of votes your party representative for:
- US House Representatives (of your district)
- State Senators (of your district)
- State Representatives (of your district)
In addition, ballot candidates and measures may vary by county and district. Some county ballots may include municipal elections (such as Allen and Marion County), while other ballots may vary by district for certain elections such as the Indiana school board elections. In some areas, the ballot may have public questions—such as the school tax levy referendum for the South Bend Community School Corporation in St. Joseph County or the School Safety and Security Project Referendum for the New Albany-Floyd County School Corporation.
To determine the candidates running for office in your county and to view public questions on your ballot, go to indianavoters.com and click on the “Who’s on my Ballot” tab and fill in the required information.
How can I learn about the candidates on my ballot?
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of a multitude of events where voters could interact with candidates such as forums, townhalls, debates, public events, and fundraisers to learn more about them. Thus, online resources have become critical opportunities to learn more about the candidates on your ballot. Here are a couple of helpful resources you can use to learn more about your candidates:
- Campaign Websites – Find your candidates’ websites. Not all may have one, but these are great tools to learn about the policies candidates support and ideologies they embody!
- Vote411.org – Find who and what is on your ballot and view candidates’ responses to key policy questions posed by local, state, and national chapters of the League of Women Voters (and their community/media partners). Learn more about each candidate and where they stand on the issues that matter to you! The League presents this information in the candidate’s own (unedited) words without filters, ratings, or commentaries.
- Trusted Interest Groups – A wide variety of interest groups across the political spectrum provide voter guides and rating cards for candidates running for political office. Consult the groups that best represent your interests to learn where candidates stand on issues that matter to you, but be aware that issue advocacy groups, professional groups, business groups, and ideological groups will all be viewing candidates from the perspective of their political interests. It is often helpful to read what opposing groups say in order to gain a clearer picture of where a candidate really stands.
- Social Media – Find your candidate’s social media sites (through their website, a Google search, a search of your preferred social media platform, or vote411.org). Like or follow these pages to stay up to date on their campaign, interact with campaign staff, and understand the political priorities and issue positions the candidate will bring to the table.
How has the pandemic affected voting?
In addition to postponing the primary election, the Indiana Election Commission has allowed “no-excuse absentee ballot voting” for this upcoming primary election. There also has been a reduction in the number of in-person voting sites, with the time allotted for absentee-in-person voting decreasing from about a month prior to the primary, to a week. This leaves all voters with three voting options for the June 2nd Primary:
- In Person – Voters can show up to the polls on June 2nd from 6 am – 6 pm per usual. Personal protective equipment (e.g., masks and gloves) is strongly encouraged.
- Absentee-in-Person – Voters can vote in person at their county election board office starting May 26th to June 1st, however times and locations may vary by county.
- Absentee-by-Mail – All voters are eligible to absentee vote by mail, so long as they follow the necessary steps described below.
Voter ID: There are three types of acceptable forms of identification that voters can use to vote in the election so long as the photograph and expiration date are valid.
- State Issued ID – Such as an Indiana driver license or Identification Card.
- National Issued ID – Includes Passport, military ID, etc.
- Public University ID – If a student attends an in-state public university and that ID meets all the requirements for a state-issued voter ID (photograph and valid expiration date) it can be used to vote.
How do I acquire and submit an Absentee-by-Mail Ballot?
Absentee voting can be a complicated process, so here are all the steps that you must take to acquire your ballot and ensure that it is counted!
- To acquire an absentee ballot, voters must submit a request to their county election board by May 21st to receive their ballot in time for the election.
- To request this ballot, voters can go to indianavoters.com and use the “Vote by Mail or Traveling Board” tab to make a formal online absentee ballot request or locate the contact information for their local election board to mail, fax, or hand deliver a request. If you choose to mail or fax your completed absentee ballot application as opposed to completing the online application, you can find the form here.
- Once you receive your ballot in the mail, be sure to fill it out and mail it to the required address as soon as possible—as these ballots must be received at the county elections office by noon on Election Day.
How do I keep my students or community electorally engaged throughout these unprecedented times?
The Political Science Club and American Democracy Project of IU South Bend noticed that students and community members have shown high levels of interest in the upcoming presidential election, especially in the earlier stages of the primary when there were an array of candidates (including our own Mayor Pete Buttigieg) for students and community members to choose from. Unfortunately, as the candidate pool dwindled—in combination with an increasingly serious global pandemic that has resulted in the cancellation of various civic and political engagement activities, we have noticed that our student and community engagement has suffered. However, despite this pandemic, there are still a multitude of ways to get students and community members engaged:
- Social Media – Share information about the election, the candidates, and opportunities for involvement on social media sites. Include links to online registration portals and voter guides where voters can learn more about the people and issues on the ballot.
- Campus Emails – Send out information to all students at your school about the elections, how they can register, where they can vote, and how to request an absentee-by-mail ballot.
- Online Class Announcements – Remind students of the upcoming election and the necessary information for them to get involved by posting information to the landing page of the school’s course management program and encourage instructors to share this information using the Announcement feature in Canvas or Blackboard.
- Posters – Coordinate with your local grocery store and other local business to provide election information to customers through visuals such as window and wall posters that remind voters of the election and how they can vote.
- Online Candidate Forums, Debates, and Interviews – If candidates are willing, move your planned candidate forums and debates online using Zoom, Skype, or Facebook Live.
While these alternatives are certainly less favorable than in-person political engagement through live events such as candidate forums, debate watch parties, or voter registration drives, they represent a few easy steps that campuses and civic groups can take to promote political engagement even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Christian Martinez is a guest contributor for the RAISE the Vote Campaign. The views expressed in the posts and articles featured in the RAISE the Vote campaign are those of the authors and contributors alone and do not represent the views of APSA.
Christian Martinez is an honors undergraduate student at Indiana University, South Bend studying political science and economics. Beyond academics, Christian is the president of the university’s Political Science Club, a senator on the Student Government Association, and an intern at the American Democracy Project.