Hoosiers expecting to vote by mail in this year's general election still should plan to return their ballots no later than noon on Election Day to be sure they're counted in the final results.
The federal judge who last week ordered Indiana election officials to count mail-in ballots received through Nov. 13, so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, temporarily halted implementation of her ruling Tuesday to give the secretary of state time to appeal her decision.
U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker, appointed to the bench in 1984 by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said a one-week stay is warranted "to avoid providing absentee voters with a false sense of security" while the case is awaiting action at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
"Indiana voters eligible to and desirous of voting by absentee ballot are encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of Indiana's October 22, 2020 deadline, and, upon receipt, to promptly complete and return their absentee ballots without delay," Barker said.
Her extension of Indiana's statutory mail-in ballot receipt deadline followed a lawsuit filed in August by Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana NAACP seeking "to prevent mass disenfranchisement of Indiana voters" due to disruptions and delays by the U.S. Postal Service.
Barker said she remains convinced the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the noon Election Day ballot receipt deadline is unconstitutional as applied in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An expedited decision by the 7th Circuit is expected.
Separately, the federal appeals court rejected an effort Tuesday to make all Hoosiers eligible to vote by mail this year, instead of only those meeting at least of one the 11 qualifying excuses listed in state law.
It said having some Hoosiers eligible to vote by mail, while denying the opportunity to others, does not infringe on the right to vote since Indiana makes nearly a month of in-person early voting, and 12 hours of balloting on Election Day, available to all voters.