Before sending your Mail-in Ballot

Contributed By:The 411 News

Read instructions carefully to make sure your vote is counted

For many voters, November's Presidential Election is the first time they'll use a mail-in ballot instead of standing in line on Election Day because of fears about the spread of COVID-19.

For some, even the expansion of early voting which gives voters more days to cast their ballots thus reducing long lines has lost its appeal. The mail-in ballot seems just the solution.

The Lake County Election Board reported in September it had sent out more than 15,000 mail-in absentee ballots and the number was likely to grow.

What must be kept in mind by those voting by mail for the first time is election officials also reported some mail-in ballots received in June's Primary Election and previous elections were rejected and not counted because of voter errors completing the ballot or the ballot was received too late.

Scott Yonover chats with a customer. That’s Tim Bellamy and Daniel Krause poking heads out the windowsThe return envelope is where most errors occurred. Lake County rejected some ballots because the voter's signature on the return envelope was missing or the signature didn't exactly match the voter registration signature card on file at the Election Board.

In late August, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker ordered Indiana election officials to stop rejecting ballots because of variations in signatures.

Now, election officials must immediately notify a voter and allow the voter a chance to reply when there is a question about a signature on the return envelope. The return envelope is the only place in the mail-in ballot requiring the voter's signature.

Indiana election officials can't open the envelope until Election Day, but the signature is on the outside and signature verification can start as soon as the envelope is returned to the Election Board.

Ballots must be received by the Lake County Election Board on or before noon on Election Day.

And that requirement is now in question because of a Sept. 30 Judge Barker ruling ordering election officials to count ballots received through November 13th as long as the postmark on the return envelope is November 3rd. Implementation of her order will have to wait pending further court action. A higher court decision on Barker's ruling is expected in 7-10 days.

Voters can take ballots to the Board's office in the Lake County Government Building in Crown Point or put them in the U.S. mail. Lake County allows mail-in ballots to be dropped off at polling stations on Election Day.

Scott Yonover chats with a customer. That’s Tim Bellamy and Daniel Krause poking heads out the windowsThe return envelope requires the voter to place a checkmark in the box for General Election and put the date of the election on the line below.

In the next statement, election officials want to know whether the voter completed the ballot alone or whether the voter received assistance from an individual to complete the ballot. If the voter had help, the name of the individual assisting must be written in the space provided. If there was no assistance, the space will remain blank.

The voter's signature and date in the block below affirms that the above statements are true.

Space is provided below the voter's signature for the signature and date of the individual who assisted the voter.

The official ballot card with its 192 slots call for paying close attention to the official ballot instructions sheets. A #2 lead pencil must be used to mark the ballot card, not an ink pen. The ballot instructions contain a list of official candidates, public questions, and offices with a write-in candidate, each with a corresponding ballot number. The ballot number indicates which slot to mark on the ballot card.

Scott Yonover chats with a customer. That’s Tim Bellamy and Daniel Krause poking heads out the windowsThe ballot folder is used by voters to include names of official write-in candidates. Even if not voting for a write-in candidate, instructions request the voter to insert the ballot card in the ballot folder.

These are the 3 items going back to the election board: ballot card, the ballot folder, and the return envelope you'll put them in.

Story Posted:10/08/2020

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