It’s been a confusing election season, no doubt. But Hoosiers can vote early, before Election Day on Nov. 3.
Here’s help to understand the ways you can cast your ballot early and what those election terms mean.
How do you vote early?There are three ways in Indiana: absentee-by-mail voting (aka mail-in voting), in-person absentee voting or voting by traveling board.
Military and overseas voters can also vote absentee, but state and federal law set forth different procedures.
Whatever method you choose, you can only vote once.
What is absentee-by-mail voting?Exactly what the name says: It’s where you return your ballot by mail. It’s expected to be popular with people who are busy or worried about going to a polling place during the coronavirus pandemic.
First, you must mail-in or drop off an application requesting that a ballot be sent to you. Applications can be downloaded at in.gov/sos/elections and submitted online or mailed in or hand-delivered to your election office — but you must do so by Oct. 22.
In St. Joseph County, voters can apply for an absentee-by-mail ballot online or by mail. For information, go to the 2020 Absentee Voting Information web page on the SJCIndiana.gov site.
For your application to be approved, you must be a registered voter and meet one of 11 conditions, such as being 65 or older, having a disability, lacking transportation or access to the polls, or expecting to be out of the county where you’re registered to vote for the entire time polls are open on Election Day.
If you received an absentee ballot but later decide to vote in-person, simply bring your ballot to the polling place and surrender it. Then you can vote in-person.
Election board leaders encourage voters who qualify for an absentee ballot to send their applications early and bring ballot errors to the board’s attention as soon as possible.
What is in-person absentee voting?In-person absentee voting allows you to vote early and in person at local election board voting site.
St. Joseph County voters can cast their in-person absentee ballot in person from Oct. 6 through noon on Nov. 2 during the following times in the lobbies of the County-City Building, 227 W. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, and the County Services Building at 219 Lincoln Way W., Mishawaka:
• Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 24 & Oct. 31: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 25 & Nov. 1: Noon to 4 p.m.
• Monday, Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to noon.
What is the travel board option?The traveling board option allows someone who is physically unable to vote to cast a ballot from home during the 19-day period before the election.
If you meet one of several conditions, a bipartisan team will hand deliver a ballot to your home and assist you, if necessary.
Vote by Traveling Board by filling out an absentee ballot application and indicate you would like to have a travel board come to your residence to vote your ballot. The Traveling Board supervisor will call and schedule a time for their visit.
How long will early voting ballots be accepted?A recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker says Indiana vote-by-mail absentee ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3, and received on or before Nov. 13, will be counted in this election.
Early voting ballots in St. Joseph County can be returned in several ways:
• By mail: A first-class, postage pre-paid envelope is included in your absentee ballot packet.
• Hand deliver: It must be received in the St. Joseph County Clerk’s office (basement of the courthouse), 101 S. Main Street, South Bend, no later than noon on Nov. 3.
A voter may also hand deliver their absentee-by-mail ballot to an election worker during the hours of in-person absentee voting.
Someone other than the voter can return the absentee-by-mail ballot. They are: a member of the voter’s household, a voter’s attorney, a U.S. postal worker or a bonded courier. The person will need to submit an ABS-19 form at the time they deliver the ballot.
Where can I vote on Election Day?In St. Joseph County, there are 42 vote centers for the Nov. 3 general election.
Adams High School; American Legion Post 189; Centre Township Library; Century Center (two vote centers inside); Charles Black Center; Clay Middle School; Clay High School; County Services Building in Mishawaka; Darden Elementary School; Dickinson Middle School; Discovery Elementary School; Edison Middle School; Emmons Elementary School; Grissom Middle School; Hums Elementary School; IBEW No. 153; Ivy Tech; Jackson Middle School; John Young Middle School; Kennedy Elementary School; LaSalle Academy; Lincoln Elementary School; Marquette Elementary School; Marshall Traditional School; McKinley Elementary School; Mishawaka High School; Moran Elementary School; Muessel Elementary School; North Point Elementary School; O’Brien Recreation Center; Olive Township Elementary School; Palmer Community Complex; Prairie Vista Elementary School; Riley High School; Rise Up Academy; Schmucker Middle School; Swanson Elementary School; Twin Branch Elementary School; Walt Disney Elementary School; Warren Elementary School; and Washington High School.
You need to bring a government-issued photo ID. It must have an expiration date later than Nov. 3, 2020, and it must show your name and photo.
Any more information?
For information on candidates and their positions on key issues, go to www.vote411.org. The site is run by the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area, in partnership with the American Democracy Project of Indiana University South Bend.
Next Sunday, The Tribune will publish a special section with some of the candidates’ responses from vote411.org.