Give Hoosiers the freedom to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the safest way possible

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Q. What do Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Eric Holcomb and all deployed members of the U.S. military have in common?

A. They all voted absentee by mail in 2018.

COVID-19 cases are surging across the United States, and Indiana is no exception. Just last week, Indiana broke the record for new daily cases three days in a row. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the Midwest is poised for a steep increase if we aren’t careful.

Make no mistake: COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. It will still be here for our November election. 

When COVID-19 first hit near the beginning of the year, Indiana’s leaders quickly came together to ensure all Hoosiers would be able to cast their ballots safely by mail in the primary election, and it was a great success.

Over half a million Hoosiers voted by mail in this year’s primary. That’s over 70 percent of how many people voted total in the 2018 primaries. If we allow voters to cast their ballots by no-excuse absentee ballot this fall, we are sure to see that trend of high voter turnout continue. Clearly, Hoosiers from all political beliefs believed that voting absentee was the best and safest thing to do during a pandemic.

This isn’t just about the safety of voters either. The more in-person voting we have, the more poll workers we need. The average age of Indiana poll workers is 72 years old, well past Governor Eric Holcomb’s recommendation of caution for Hoosiers over the age of 65. 

Do our Statehouse colleagues across the aisle really want to risk the lives of our civically-minded elderly Hoosiers? And if so, why? Just to score some political points with extremists out of Washington, D.C. and mega-donors who fund so many of their campaigns?

Hoosiers want to vote. We want to be involved. Being a Hoosier means being actively engaged in your community and the democratic process. Why won’t our state government allow Hoosiers to exercise this right to vote safely?

Luckily, voting by mail is just as secure as voting in person. In fact, a recent NPR analysis found that mail-in voting (including absentee voting) carries a fraud rate of no more than 0.00006 percent! The math shows that you are 500 times more likely to get struck by lighting in your lifetime than find fraud in a mailed ballot. Even Governor Holcomb recently noted that there was no fraud in the primary. Plainly put, mail-in voter fraud is scarcer than hens' teeth.

Countless public gatherings have already been cancelled for fear of increasing the spread of the virus. Schools are going virtual. It is not safe to gather at the polling places. Our state’s own health officials are saying it’s not safe to gather en masse anywhere. They are encouraging all Hoosiers to stay home unless they have to leave the house. 

The call for no-excuse absentee voting has come from all sides, including former lieutenant governors from both parties. The only resistance in our state seems to be coming from Republicans currently in the Statehouse.

Our state’s leaders say they believe in freedom and the sanctity of life. If that’s true, why not take such an easy step that could save countless lives?

The least we could do right now is give Hoosiers the freedom to choose to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the safest way possible.


The op-ed column above was issued jointly by Indiana State Reps. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville), Chuck Moseley (D-Portage) and Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute); and Indiana State Sens. J. D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) and Eddie Melton (D-Gary). Moseley is the Ranking Minority Member of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, while Ford is the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Elections Committee.

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