A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday upheld an August ruling that rejected a request to expand mail-in voting to all Indiana voters.
“Given that voting is already underway in Indiana, we…are wary of turning the State in a new direction at this stage,” the Tuesday ruling said.
Indiana allows voters to vote by mail for a myriad of reasons, including disability, voters who lack transportation, voters who will not be home on Election Day, and voters over the age of 65.
The group Indiana Vote By Mail and voters concerned about the risk of exposure to the coronavirus while voting sued election officials in April to force the court to extend the no-excuse mail-in balloting that the Indiana Election Commission (IEC) permitted during the primary, which extended absentee voting privileges to all registered and qualified voters, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The IEC chose not to expand the no-excuse mail-in balloting, but Indiana law allows voters to vote up to 28 days early.
The plaintiffs also argued that Indiana law violated the 26th Amendment because one of the qualifications to vote absentee in the state is to be 65 or older, according to WISHTV.
However, the three-judge panel disagreed, saying the blame falls on the pandemic. (RELATED: Federal Indiana Judge Extends Mail-In Ballot Deadline, Cites Undecided Voters Needing More Time)
“The court recognizes the difficulties that might accompany in-person voting during this time,” the ruling said. “But Indiana’s absentee-voting laws are not to blame. It’s the pandemic, not the State, that might affect Plaintiffs’ determination to cast a ballot.”
“We are well aware that the most severe public health crisis of the past century currently ravages our nation and the world.But that reality does not undermine our conclusion – it reinforces it,” the ruling continued. “This court is ill equipped to second guess, let alone override, the rational policy judgements of Indiana’s elected officials ‘on the eve of an election.’ ”
Indiana Vote By Mail criticized the decision in a tweet.
“Yesterday’s ruling is the latest in a growing number of federal court decisions in which judges have refused to acknowledge the substantial burden imposed on voters by the pandemic or require the states to make adjustments in state election laws to alleviate those burdens and increase accessibility to the voting process”
????Media statement from @IndianaVbm regarding the 7th Circuit Court decision handed down on 10/6/20????
— Indiana Vote By Mail???? (@IndianaVbm) October 7, 2020
Tuesday’s ruling upheld an August ruling by U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlon, who said that state officials were allowed to decide how mail-in voting proceeds and that voters who didn’t want to cast their ballot on Election Day could vote early at a polling site for nearly a month, according to the AP.