Problems with a state computer server have left two Michiana county clerks frustrated and concerned about their ability to process mail-in absentee ballot application requests in time for the Nov. 6 elections. Ann Tito, a 71-year-old South Bend woman who is typically homebound because of her cancer, said a St. Joseph County clerk’s office employee told her over the phone that she would soon receive an application in the mail to absentee vote from home. When she still hadn’t received the application two weeks later, Tito, beginning to worry that she wouldn’t be able to vote in time, said she had her caregiver drive her downtown Wednesday to vote in person at the County-City Building. “I took my walker and my cane and got there at 8 o’clock when they opened so I would have the best chance of finding a parking place,” Tito said. “It was difficult physically for me to do it, but it was a lot better than waiting in line on Nov. 6 for unknown amount of time. This election is critical. We need to stand up for what we believe in and vote.”
Democratic St. Joseph County Clerk Terri Rethlake said Tito isn’t alone. Republican Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s State Voter Registration System has suffered problems this week, prohibiting deputy county clerks from verifying that mail-in ballot applicants are registered to vote, along with printing their application and ballot labels, Rethlake said.
“Anytime anything goes wrong with absentee voting, because the window is so small, I get concerned,” Rethlake said.
Absentee voting began Wednesday. Voters can turn in absentee ballots until Nov. 5, the day before the election, but people voting by mail must also account for the several days it takes the U.S. Postal Service to route mail through a Fort Wayne sorting center.
Rethlake’s office doesn’t need the SVRS to process walk-in absentee voting, which has become increasingly popular even among able-bodied voters because of its convenience. She said the Indiana Secretary of State’s office said it was installing a new server to the SVRS Wednesday night, and things improved early Thursday morning, but by late morning, stopped working again. It was still not working correctly late Friday afternoon, Rethlake said.