A secure drop-off point for ballots will be available for at least one day to allow voters a chance to circumvent the postal system, the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections announced this morning.
The site is Edgelea Elementary School in Lafayette, chosen for being in the "dead center" of Tippecanoe County, election worker Mike Smith said. Edgelea is about a 15-minute drive from Purdue's campus.
Voters can drive to 2910 S. 18th St. on Oct. 25, a Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. to drop off ballots.
One may turn in a ballot for oneself, for a member of one's household or for a person from which they've received power of attorney, County Clerk Julie Roush said. For these last two options, the person delivering the ballot must sign an affidavit affirming who they are and how they obtained the ballot.
Board member Kent Moore advocated for the initial drop-off point and made a motion to allow for an additional day of drive-in voting if necessary, which the board passed. The second day would likely be the Sunday before Election Day.
The drop-off point was conceived as a means to combat voter uncertainty about the United States Postal Service, the board said. Between understaffing, baseless claims about voter fraud made by politicians and one case of a 19-day delay from postmarked date to reception in the county's June primary election, Roush worries confidence is low.
The ruling made Tuesday by a federal judge in the U.S. Southern District of Indiana, which requires ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they arrive on or before Nov. 13, should assuage voters' concerns about postal delays, Smith said.
"I think it relieves some of the pressures on our voters," he said. "I don't think there's quite the necessity for this drive-thru as there was now that we're going to have to be receiving ballots and counting them for 10 days past the election."
But board member Randall Vonderheide warned against procrastination in sending ballots. A month remains for the ruling to be challenged in federal appeals court, he noted.
"If you're voting absentee, get it done," he said.
Roush said as of Friday morning, approximately 3,000 completed ballots had already been delivered to the county election board.
Tippecanoe County voters had requested more than 10,300 applications for absentee ballots as of Friday. Although Indiana revoked the universal mail-in voting policy it instated for the June primary, voters who meet one of 11 state requirements can request a ballot until Oct. 22.
The deadline to register to vote in Indiana is Monday. Early voting begins Tuesday at the Tippecanoe County Office Building in downtown Lafayette from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
A county committee worked to choose a drive-thru site that was both large enough to avoid traffic jams and protected from unpredictable weather, the board said.
Two large tents previously used for outdoor food drives will be used to protect from inclement weather, Smith said. The Lafayette Police Department will direct traffic outside the elementary schools to lessen wait times, he added.
"If you've ever had the misfortune of accidentally being there when school lets out," said Heather Maddox, chairperson of the Tippecanoe County Democratic Party, "the line goes all the way down 18th and back."