By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS — Fifth CD Republican Carl Brizzi and 1st District Democrat Thomas McDermott Jr., are calling on Secretary of State Connie Lawson to delay Indiana’s May 5 primary. Fifth CD Democrat Christina Hale joined the state's two party chairmen who are seeking expanded vote by mail.

Lawson’s office was coy when Howey Politics Indiana asked if a delay was under consideration. Lawson spokeswoman Valerie Warycha told HPI on Tuesday, “I’ll be in touch when I have something to share.”

Mayor McDermott told the NWI Times’ Dan Carden on Wednesday, “The health and safety of both voters and election workers has to be the most important factor as our state leaders consider what to do about Election Day. For that reason, I am urging Secretary of State Lawson and the Indiana Election Commission to move Election Day at least 30 days, to early June.” 

McDermott was joined by Democratic rival Jim Harper, who told the Times, “In the coming days, our focus as a community should be on stopping the spread of this virus and supporting our neighbors in need.”

On Tuesday, Brizzi said, “With coronavirus spreading across the United States, several states have already altered their primary contests in response to growing concerns. I don’t want to do anything that puts Hoosiers at risk. As such, I am calling for the postponement of Indiana’s May 5 primary. Not an easy decision, but the safety of poll workers and voters takes precedence. Free and fair elections are the foundation of American democracy, we need to ensure that all Hoosiers are heard and are safe.”

Fifth CD Democrat Christina Hale told HPI on Wednesday, “Our top priority needs to be the health and safety of Hoosier families. Expanding no-excuse absentee-by-mail would allow us to prioritize public health while ensuring that every voter is able to cast their ballot by May 5.”

Not all candidates were on board. State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon running in the 1st CD was against the delay, telling the Times, “This global pandemic has led to uncertain times, and all of us Americans have to work together to get through it. But one thing that will not help — and in fact be detrimental to our state and country — is sowing added uncertainty into our lives.”

In a joint letter sent Friday to the Indiana Election Commission from Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody, they suggest allowing any registered voter to vote absentee by mail (IBJ). “The coronavirus pandemic is causing all of us to consider precautionary measures related to group gatherings and general interaction with other people, and Election Day is no exception,” the letter said. Currently, Indiana voters can vote absentee by mail if they have a disability, are at least 65 years old, are a member of the military or are public safety official, are a “serious sex offender” or have a specific reason they can’t vote on Election Day, such as unavailability of transportation, have to work the entire 12 hours polls are open or are confined due to illness or injury, Zody and Hupfer say they think the Election Commission should suspend that rule so voters do not need a reason to vote by mail. They are also requesting that the deadline to vote absentee by mail be extended to a date closer to Election Day. Currently, the deadline is 12 days before the election. They suggest that the extended date should be agreed upon unanimously by the Election Commission. “We recognize that risk to the general public is currently low; however, primary voters may have a legitimate concern about voting in person; either absentee at the clerk’s office or on Election Day,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, Hupfer denied “rumors” the June GOP convention would be cancelled. “There are no plans to cancel state convention. I wanted to make sure that Republicans across the state, and especially our convention delegates, have the facts about informal discussions that have taken place among members of our state committee. Like most other large organizations that have upcoming events that will attract robust crowds, the Indiana Republican Party needs to be prepared with possible contingency plans if our planned state convention in June is impacted by the coronavirus. We do not anticipate the same sort of crowd control precautions taking place today in relation to sporting events to still be necessary in June. However, the responsible course of action is to be prepared, just in case. To that end, this morning, I had a call with members of the state committee to begin discussing what contingencies could look like if we are, indeed, impacted.”

Calls for the delay come as Ohio abruptly delayed its primary on Tuesday. A judge tried to block an order by Gov. Mike DeWine, who then ordered Ohio’s director of public health to “order the polls closed as a health emergency,” DeWine said on Twitter. “To conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus.” Illinois, Florida and Arizona held primaries, with Arizona relying heavily on balloting by mail. Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana and Wyoming have also announced delays. “Postponing the primary was not an easy decision, but the Republican secretary of state and the Democratic governor agreed, and so do the county clerks of both parties,” Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams said. “My hope is that this delay will allow us to have a normal election.”

Statewides


Visclosky endorses Tallian

The longest serving congressman in state history is recommending his fellow Hoosier Democrats nominate state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, for Indiana attorney general (Carden, NWI Times). U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, said Tallian has earned his “unconditional support and endorsement” because the 15-year state lawmaker “has been a true public servant throughout her career” and “demonstrated that she cares about the livelihoods of all individuals and families.”