News

Indiana: What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November

What you need to know, including key deadlines, how to vote by mail, and more.

Grace Han/Thrillist

The 2020 General Election is fast approaching. November 3 will be here before you know it. The deadlines to register to vote and request absentee ballots in Indiana will be here even sooner. 

It’s worth knowing your deadlines. Have a plan to make sure you can vote in local and national elections. The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly making it more difficult to hit those deadlines, and you don’t want to be trying to participate in the election and find out you’re ineligible. Indiana has a few options for how you can vote, but it hasn’t made concessions to help people concerned about the pandemic. So, you’ll really want to have a good sense of your choices for voting safely, whether that’s the day of the election, voting early, or casting an absentee ballot. Here’s everything you need to know.

What's the deadline to register to vote in Indiana?

You need to be registered at least 29 days before the election, meaning the deadline to register for the November 3, 2020 election is October 5, 2020. Indiana does not offer day-of registration. No matter how you’re registering, that’s going to be the deadline for you to have the paperwork filed or postmarked.

How to register to vote in Indiana

If you’re a resident of Indiana, you can register at IndianaVoters.com. At that site, you can also check your registration status or update your registration. To register, you need to qualify for all five criteria. You'll need to be 18 years-old, a US citizen, and "not currently imprisoned after being convicted of a crime." You also must have an Indiana driver’s license or a state-issued ID, and you must have lived in your precinct for at last 30 days before the election.

If you’d prefer to register by mail, there are printable forms at IndianaVoters.com as well. You’ll also find those forms available at public libraries. However, if you’re mailing it in, do it soon. You need to have the form postmarked at least 29 days before the election. You may also register in person at “license branches, county election offices, and many other places,” according to the state’s voting portal.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Indiana?

Indiana allows early in-person or absentee-in-person voting from October 6 to November 2. "All registered Indiana voters are eligible to vote early in-person," the state's site says. 

The locations and hours vary, so you should contact your County Clerk’s office to find locations and hours. However, to do so, you will need a photo ID, just like you need for in-person voting on Election Day. Here’s a list of photo IDs that are accepted in Indiana.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, but not everyone qualifies. There have been campaigns to open up the vote-by-mail options in Indiana. However, Governor Eric Holcomb has rejected those petitions. He said, "Folks need to understand that it is safe to vote. Indiana will have a safe and secure and healthy, in-person election on November 3," per a report by NWITimes.com.

To vote by mail, you must meet the absentee-by-mail requirements. According to the state’s voting site, you must complete and return a one-page application to vote absentee-by-mail by October 22 at 11:59pm. That's the date it must be received. That is not a postmark deadline. (You must already be registered to vote at the earlier deadline.)

There are 11 ways to qualify for absentee voting in the state. These are the reasons as listed on the state’s voting site: 

  • The voter has a "reasonable expectation" that they will be out of county for the entire time polls are open on Election Day 
  • The voter has disability
  • The voter is 65 years-old or older
  • The voter has official election duties outside of their voting precinct
  • The voter is scheduled to work during the entire time the polls are open
  • The voter will be "confined due to illness or injury" or caring for someone who is confined as such for the entire time the polls are open
  • The voter is prevented from voting due to a religious discipline or holiday on Election Day
  • The voter participates in the state's address confidentiality program
  • The voter is a member of the military or a public safety officer
  • The voter is considered a "serious sex offender" as defined by state statute
  • The voter does not have access to transportation to the polls

According to The Washington Post, Indiana is one of just eight states that requires an excuse for mail-in voting that does not include any COVID-19-related reasons.

How to request an absentee-by-mail ballot in Indiana

You’ll need to fill out this form (en español) and submit it by the October 22 deadline. (Again, that is not a postmark deadline.) Though, it’s worth repeating that you need to be registered 29 days in advance to vote. Requesting an absentee ballot is not registering to vote. You’ll already need to be registered when you request your absentee ballot. 

How can I make sure my absentee-by-mail ballot is counted?

There are three key things you can do: 1) carefully follow all of the absentee-by-mail ballot instructions, 2) meet the deadlines for each step of the absentee-by-mail process, and 3) make sure your signature matches what's on your voter registration. It's also a good idea to avoid damaging your voting materials so that your ballot isn't thrown out on some sort of technicality. 

If you have any concerns about your ballot, contact your local election officials.

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

At the time of publication, Indiana has not announced specifics on special precautions that it will be taking at polling locations. There is not a statewide mask mandate, but if you’re looking to vote safely, it definitely starts with wearing a mask. Wash your hands frequently. You may also want to bring your own pen and hand sanitizer. Voting early in-person or absentee-by-mail are likely the safest ways to vote.

Nonetheless, there are ways you can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued safety recommendations for voters -- all of which are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the dat.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.

It all boils down to using your common sense. 

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.