Civic Engagement Series: a guide to casting your ballot in local elections

Civic Engagement Series: a guide to casting your ballot in local elections
By: Sarah Corn, Stacey Kellogg Last Updated: October 29, 2019

Editor's Note: This is the third and final article in the Civic Engagement Series before elections on Nov. 5. Please exercise your civic duty and vote in local elections!

Important information: At the end of this article is information about remaining or existing opportunities to learn about local candidates. Please note that this information was provided to GreatNews.Life and does not constitute an endorsement of any program, group, individual, or party.

In Indiana, it’s virtually impossible to say you didn’t have enough time to vote. Polls are open for early voting 28 days before election day, they are open for 12 hours during election day, or citizens may vote by mail as well under certain circumstances. Voting takes a few minutes out of the day, and you have all year to make plans to vote in one of those ways within the 28-day period before elections.

Once you are registered and ready to cast your ballot, where do you go and what do you bring? Where you go depends on whether you’re voting early, or on election day. What you bring is standard across the board.

Early Voting

In Indiana, polls are open before election day for the convenience of voters. In fact, for the upcoming elections on Nov. 5, polls have already opened for early voting. You have three options for voting early: Absentee-in-Person, Absentee-By-Mail, and Travelling Board. Once again, the Indiana Voter Portal is the best source for all of your ballot-casting needs.

Let’s break down all your early voting options

Absentee-In-Person
All registered voters in Indiana are eligible to vote absentee-in-person at the county election board office beginning 28 days before election day.

First, using your name, birth date, and county of residence, log in to the Indiana Voter Portal and find your early voting location and hours. Below is an example of an actual log-in screen from one of our GreatNews.Life team members who lives in Valparaiso, Center Township, Precinct Cen 30.

Before you go, make sure to visit the “What to expect and bring with you” section. In Indiana, you must present a valid photo ID to cast your ballot in person. A valid ID for voting purposes must:

  • Include the voter’s name, which must confirm—not necessary to be identical - to the name on the individual's voter registration record.
  • Include a photograph of the individual.
  • Except for certain military and veterans documents, include an expiration date that shows the ID current or expired after November 6, 2018.
  • Be issued by the State of Indiana or the U.S. Government.
  • If you can’t present this form of ID, the election officials must issue you a provisional ballot, explained below.

Absentee by Mail
In Indiana, you must apply for an absentee-by-mail ballot, and the deadline for that is Oct. 24, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. local prevailing time. It’s important to note that this is when the county must receive the form. It can be mailed, emailed, faxed, or hand-delivered according to instructions on the absentee ballot form. Once the county receives a valid form, they will process it and issue a ballot to the voter with instructions.

Those voting absentee-by-mail are not required to show photo ID. In order to absentee-by-mail, one of these must apply: 

  • There must be a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours the polls are open.
  • You have a disability or at least 65 years of age 
  • You will have official election duties outside of your voting precinct 
  • You are scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours the polls are open 
  • You will be confined due to illness, or, will be caring for an individual confined to one during the entire 12 hours the polls are open 
  • You are prevented from voting for religious purposes, or a religious holiday during the entire 12 hours the polls are open 
  • You are a participant in the state’s address confidentiality program
  • You are a member of the military or a public safety office
  • You are a serious sex offender as defined in Indiana Code 35-42-4-14(a)
  • You are prevented from voting due to lack of transportation.

Click here to find the file link to the application for Absentee-By-Mail form.

Absentee-By-Travelling
In Indiana, voters who cannot be physically present or vote by mail can apply for an absentee-by-traveling ballot, and the deadline for the county to receive that application for upcoming elections is Nov. 4, 2019 at Noon local prevailing time. To vote by absentee-by-travelling board, one of these must apply: 

  • The voter expects to be confined, due to illness or injury, or the voter expects to be caring for a confined person at a private residence, on Election day
  • The voter has disabilities and believes their polling place is inaccessible to them 

Find the application for Absentee-By-Travelling form by clicking here.

Military personnel overseas should consult Federal Voting Assistance Program, and complete and submit the Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Federal Post Card Application.

Voting in person on Election Day

You can find the address of your polling location a few different ways:

Check your voter registration card that you received in the mail (like the one shown below). Under the section labeled “Polling Place” you will find the address that will have your ballot waiting for you to cast.

Using your name, birth date, and county of residence, log in to the Indiana Voter Portal and find your early voting location and hours.

Or, you can call or visit your county’s Voter Registration Office:
LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS
2293 N MAIN STREET, A-205
CROWN POINT, IN, 46307
PHONE: 219-755-3795
LAPORTE COUNTY VOTER REGISTRATION
813 LINCOLNWAY, STE 103
LAPORTE, IN, 46350
PHONE: 219-325-5572
PORTER COUNTY VOTER REGISTRATION
155 INDIANA AVE, STE 105
VALPARAISO, IN, 46383
PHONE: 219-465-3486

Provisional ballots
A provisional ballot allows an individual to cast a vote if there is a question about whether the voter is qualified to vote. For example, if the voter is challenged for lacking proper ID to cast a ballot, the voter can request a provisional ballot. Detailed information can be found in the Indiana Election Day Handbook. In general, here are circumstances in which a voter could cast a provisional ballot:

  • The voter is lacking the requisite photo identification.
  • The voter’s name appears on the poll list, but he/she has been challenged as not eligible to vote as the precinct for some other reason sworn in writing by the person who challenges the voter’s eligibility to vote.
  • An order has been issued by a court extending the hours that the polls must remain open. 

How to cast a provisional ballot
The process begins when the challenger and the voter complete a Challenged Voters Affidavit at the time the voter was challenged for not being qualified to cast a ballot. The form details the voter’s reason for which the provisional ballot is required. Once done, they will receive the provisional ballot and seal it inside a PRO-2 security envelope.

After the polls close, the inspector and the judge of the opposite party returns the provisional ballots to the County Election Board. The election authority must determine whether the written affirmation signed by the provisional voter is properly executed, that they are registered and qualified to vote under state law in the election, and that the provisional voter cast no other ballot in the election. 

After election day, the county election board will decide whether the voter was qualified to vote in that precinct and whether it should be counted. After Election Day, the voter will be able to contact the county election board to find out whether the ballot was counted, or not, and why.

Who’s on your ballot?

The best way to become an informed voter is to know your voting choices before the election and to learn more about them as well. There are still several candidate forums throughout the region where you can meet candidates in person. You can find that information in our last Civic Engagement Series article here: https://nwi.life/article/get-registered-get-informed-get-involved/

To find out who is on your ballot, log into the Indiana Voter Portal using your name, birth date, and county of residence. A member of our GreatNews.Life team logged in to show you actual screens from that process:

If you have any questions at all about your ballot, voting, or the election process in your community, contact the election offices listed above.

Additional opportunities to learn about candidates before the Nov. 5, 2019 election

Crown Point Candidates Night
Hosted by Hometown Happenings.
7-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29 at First United Methodist Church, 352 S. Main St., Crown Point. Includes municipal and mayoral candidates. More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/474147466755357/

La Porte Municipal Election Candidate Forum
Event took place Oct. 24 but was recorded. It can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yug2E3dHTR8

Lake County election information
Website: VOTE411.org
(Powered by the League of Women Voters in Lake County with support from the Legacy Foundation)
* Lake County, Ind., residents can easily enter their home address to view which candidates are on their ballot. Only residents who live within true municipality lines have elections this year, so an individual who lives in a township and not within a town or city will have no candidate information on VOTE411.org. Same thing goes for voters outside of Lake County.
* Once the user enters their address, their “sample ballot” will populate. Regardless if a candidate responded to the survey, the user will be able to see each candidate’s name under each race.
* While reviewing the sample ballot, users can select which candidate they will be voting for. Once the user reviews his or her entire ballot the user will have the opportunity to send the completed ballot to a cell phone or email address. The user can then refer to this before voting.

Valparaiso candidate radio interviews
Tune in to WVLP 103.1 FM or their Facebook page for posted interviews with local candidates. https://www.facebook.com/wvlp103.1fm/