Election Board member: For safety, send mail-in applications to all voters

Tim Pape

When the Allen County Election Board will meet Tuesday to discuss how best to conduct the June 2 primary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Democratic member will have a suggestion.

Tim Pape, an attorney and former Fort Wayne City Council member, plans to propose a resolution that, if passed by the three-member board, would ask the state and county to provide enough funding for three things:

* The cost of printing, postage, and personnel to provide every registered voter of Allen County an application for absentee voting;

* Communications and public service announcements to citizens about the public health and economic importance of voting by mail and instructions about how to do so. And;

* Personal protective equipment, personnel, and other necessary costs “to conduct the safest election possible on June 2nd to prevent or otherwise eliminate additional infections of the coronavirus.”

Indiana’s primary was originally scheduled for May 5 but postponed to protect the public health.

As The News-Sentinel reported last week, county Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan has been invited to attend Tuesday’s meeting. McMahan has called COVID-19 three times as infectious as traditional flu, and said last week she believes both in-person and mail-in voting should be available so long as poll workers wear protective equipment and enforce social distancing. She has also expressed concerns that the premature lifting of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s shelter in place order could be a “recipe for disaster for transmission.”

To prevent that, the Election Board is mailing 150,000 post cards that promote the use of mail-in ballots and explain how to get one. More than 6,000 ballots have already been requested, according to Director of Elections Beth Dlug — already twice the total requested four years ago with nearly two months to go before Election Day. “The board’s position is that we hope everybody takes advantage of voting by mail,” said Chairman and Republican member Tom Hardin, who is also County GOP Chairman Steve Shine’s law partner.

Hardin said last week he doesn’t believe mailing an application to everyone would practical because usage would be relatively low and such a plan would provide duplicates of ballots already sent. It costs the county about $4.50 to provide one mail-in ballot, Dlug said.

In addition to moving Election Day, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Gov. Eric Holcomb announced on April 16 that in-person early voting would be reduced from 28 days to seven, between May 26 and June 1.

“The Allen County Election Board has a moral duty to protect the health and safety of poll workers and citizens it calls to vote,” Pape’s resolution states.

The Election Board’s third member is Clerk of Courts Christopher Nancarrow, a Republican.


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