Indiana Vote by Mail, Inc. v. Okeson, No. 20-2605 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Indiana voters in 13 categories can vote by mail. One category encompasses voters aged 65 and older; others encompass disabled or homebound voters, voters who lack transportation, and voters who expect to be absent from the county on election day. For the June 2020 primary election, the Indiana Election Commission responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by extending absentee-voting privileges to all registered, qualified voters. The order was not renewed for the November general election. Indiana voters may vote during 28 days before the election; the state is implementing safety guidelines and procuring protective equipment. Plaintiffs argued that Indiana’s extension of absentee ballots to elderly voters violated the Twenty-Sixth Amendment by abridging younger voters' rights and that requiring some voters to cast in-person ballots during the pandemic infringes on their fundamental right to vote.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction requiring Indiana to permit unlimited absentee voting. The fundamental right to vote does not extend to a right to cast an absentee ballot. The pandemic, not Indiana’s laws, caused the difficulties that might accompany in-person voting. The Constitution explicitly authorizes states to prescribe the manner of holding federal elections; balancing the interests of discouraging fraud and mitigating election-related issues with encouraging voter turnout is a judgment reserved to the legislature. Federal courts must exercise caution and restraint before upending state regulations on the eve of an election. . Voting is already underway in Indiana.