Election officials seeing large number of requests for absentee, mail-in ballots

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Local election officials are bracing for an unprecedented number of voters casting absentee ballots through the mail for the Nov. 3 presidential election after nearly 1,000 Bartholomew County voters requested ballots over the past 18 days.

As of Monday morning, 1,405 Bartholomew County voters had requested mail-in ballots, compared to 441 on July 30, according to the Bartholomew County Clerk’s Office. By comparison, a total of 1,333 absentee mail-in votes were cast during the 2016 presidential election and 1,346 were cast in the 2012 election.

“It already feels like it is mid-October with as busy as we have been,” said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps. “…It’s an extremely high number. It is a very impressive number for being in the middle of August.”

For those who argue that there is a difference in Indiana as to mail-in voting and absentee voting, Phelps said the process in Indiana is called absentee votes by mail.

In Indiana, any vote before Election Day is considered an absentee vote, whether it is cast in person at early voting locations or through the mail, Phelps said.

The surge in absentee ballot applications in Bartholomew County comes as the U.S. Postal Service is warning states coast to coast, including Indiana, that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted, even if mailed by state deadlines, The Associated Press reported.

The warnings have raised the possibility that millions of voters could be disenfranchised and is the latest chaotic and confusing development involving the agency, which has found itself in the middle of a high-stakes election year debate over who gets to vote in America, and how, according to wire reports.

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.