County must accept absentee ballots

By Joseph Slacian

The Wabash County Clerk’s office must accept all requests for absentee ballots, even if they aren’t the proper ones.

That was the ruling by the Indiana Election Division in light of a decision last week by the Wabash County Election Board not to accept any requests that came via the Indiana Democratic Party.

The Indiana Democratic Party mailed thousands of defected absentee ballot request forms to likely Democratic voters in September, according to Secretary of State Connie Lawson. The mailing didn’t contain mandatory instructions on how to fill them out.

Lawson instructed clerks offices around the state to reject the requests and to contact the voters asking them to resubmit a proper request application. The office later rescinded that, and ordered the clerks to accept the ballots, regardless of where they came from.

On Oct. 2, the Wabash County Election Board unanimously voted to reject the requests in spite of Lawson’s directive. Rather, the board ordered Clerk Elaine Martin and Deputy Clerk Teresa Ehret to contact the applicants and provide the proper application, asking them to resubmit the form properly.

“The decision by the Wabash County Election Board immediately came to the attention of the Indiana Democrat Party who made immediate contact with the Indiana Election Division co-directors,” Martin wrote in a memorandum obtained Tuesday, Oct. 9, by The Paper of Wabash County.

On Oct. 3, according to the memorandum, Brad King, the Republican co-director of the Indiana Election Division contacted Martin’s office seeking an explanation of what the local board did, hoping to have a “full understanding of what our discussions entailed during the meeting …”

“Mr. King was thoughtful, insightful, informative and empathetic to our board’s concerns regarding the possible implication on our local races and local school referendum if we were to have a recount or challenges made in respect to any ballots issued from the absentee applications that were previously deemed to be invalid by the Secretary of State,” Martin wrote.

She wrote that she assured King the office had not yet rejected any absentee ballot requests.

Later Oct. 3, the memorandum noted, Martin’s office received written communication from King.

“I certainly appreciate the balanced approach you took at the county election board meeting in not rejecting the absentee ballot applications described in Order 2018-45, but instead sending the voter a previously approved and valid state application,” King wrote. “However, since state law does not permit the board to do other than follow the directives set forth in state law and to comply with Order 2018-45. Therefore, the board must approve the absentee applications referenced in that order and provide an absentee ballot to the applicant, if there are no other reasons not to do so.”

The board, Martin wrote, didn’t feel the need to meet again on the matter. Instead, the clerk’s office will follow the instructions from King and “will issue ballots to voters in response to their absentee applications regardless of which form was used,” she wrote.

Posted on 2018 Oct 09