INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana primary election will be delayed four weeks because of coronavirus concerns, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Friday.
Indiana’s primary, with includes the Democratic race for presidential nominee, will move from May 5 to June 2.
The delay comes after Ohio postponed its Tuesday primary and three other states – Florida, Illinois and Arizona – proceeded with their primaries.
“As citizens we all have a right to elect our leaders in a free, open and safe environment,” Holcomb said in the press conference. “May 5 is seven weeks away, and the work needed to properly conduct this election is all currently underway.”
Holcomb said, to his knowledge, this is the first time an Indiana primary has been delayed.
All Hoosiers will have the opportunity to vote by mail, without providing a reason, via absentee ballot. Deadlines before the election, including the deadline to register to vote, will be pushed back four weeks as well, pending the approval of the Indiana Election Commission, which will meet Wednesday.
“This ensures the election process will continue and all Hoosiers will have the opportunity to vote in the May primary,” Lawson said.
The decision to postpone Indiana’s primary came after discussions with county clerks, whose deadline for sending military and overseas ballots is fast approaching, Lawson said.
“Counties are having trouble recruiting poll workers, and that’s one of the reasons we’re delaying,” Lawson said. “There are many displaced service workers and others in the state of Indiana who I hope that we can recruit and pay them to work our elections.”
Lawson warned that, come Election Day, people should anticipate slower results since counties will have to adapt to counting mailed ballots, and some counties, she said, don’t have the capacity to do it quickly.
Poll workers will receive training in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control on how to safely handle ballots and sanitize voting machines, Lawson said.
Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Republican Party, and his Democratic counterpart, John Zody, said they were still discussing with their members whether to delay conventions, where each party would nominate a candidate for state attorney general.
Other changes in preparation for the election include allowing family members to deliver absentee ballots, which current election law limits to household members.
COVID-19 CASES RISE
Kris Box, the Indiana health commissioner, provided an update on the spread of the pandemic, which reached 79 cases across 27 Indiana counties with two deaths.
The state partnered with Eli Lilly and other private labs to increase coronavirus testing capacity. Box said she hopes to send hundreds of tests out in the upcoming weeks.
“I want to remind everyone that as we start to test more we’re going to start seeing more positives,” she noted. “We expect that.”
Officials in other states have asked contractors or residents to donate or sell extra masks and sanitary supplies to the state since many hospitals and county health departments had a shortage.
“Today (Friday) we have (the Indiana Department of Transportation) and the Indiana State Police out and delivering (supplies such as gowns and masks),” she said. “They’re going out to 200 locations today … to local hospitals or county departments that have indicated they’re in the red zone.”
The “red zone” means hospitals have less than 24 hours of supplies. “Yellow zone” hospitals or health departments, with less than 96 hours of supplies, also received new supplies Friday, Box said. She anticipates releasing more detailed breakdowns of COVID-19 cases next week.
Despite the growing number of cases across the state, with 25 in Marion County alone, Holcomb repeated that he isn’t considering shelter-in-place orders.
“This is why it’s so important to follow (health department) recommendations so we don’t get to that day,” Holcomb said. “My plea and my hope is that we all understand the gravity that is surrounding us.”