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Civic Series: Staying Civically Engaged While Social Distancing

Posted by: Lindsay Trameri
Posted: April 30, 2020
Categories: IndyHub

As with most functions of “adulting,” checking our mailboxes is rarely the gratifying thrill we always dreamed it’d be as children. Often there’s a bill (*makes a mental note to go paperless*). Usually, there’s junk. Sometimes there’s a note from a friend or a postcard from an aunt. But last week, you might have noticed something interesting and brand new. 

Many of us recently received an envelope from the Marion County Election Board: a mail-in ballot application. 

2020 Indiana Primary

For context, the 2020 Indiana Primary was moved about a month from its originally scheduled date to June 2 due to the COVID-19 prompted stay-at-home order. Voters get to select their party’s candidate for president, governor, US representative, state senator, state representative, and convention delegates in this election. 

Since we don’t want to pack voting sites in person right now, voting by mail is an inclusive, common-sense solution. Some states (Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington) already conduct their elections by mail on the reg. 

Even in Indiana, this isn’t a brand new concept. In a typical election, Indiana voters with a valid reason have the option to request an absentee ballot, which assists differently-abled individuals and those away at school, in the military, or out of town on the day of the election. But for the 2020 Primary, no excuse is needed. And to help expedite the process, the Indianapolis City-County Council authorized the Election Board to send applications to every registered voter in Marion County *praise emojis*.


Voting by mail is a two-step process. It includes receiving and completing your mail-in ballot application and then receiving and completing your ballot. You will not receive a ballot without first completing the application.

Here’s how you can vote-by-mail in the 2020 Indiana Primary:

  1. To vote, you first have to be registered. Register or check your registration at indianavoters.in.gov. You must register by Monday, May 4 in order to vote in the 2020 Indiana Primary.
  2. If you already received your vote-by-mail application, simply follow its enclosed instructions to receive your mail-in ballot. If you registered after the MCEB sent mail-in ballot applications, you can request one at vote.indy.gov. You must submit your application by May 21.
  3. You will receive your primary ballot to your preferred address. Prepare to vote by learning more about the candidates and viewing a sample ballot at vote.indy.gov.
  4. Once your mail-in ballot arrives, complete and submit it by noon on June 2.

A New York Times article from 1964 describes the presidential primary as “the stepchild of the American political system–ignored for three years at a time, thrust into the national spotlight unprepared and misunderstood and then criticized in retrospect for a frivolous performance.”

I’m not your high school civics teacher and am far less equipped to compel you to see the importance in voting. But voting is important, and you probably wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t agree at least a little bit.

This is Indy’s first attempt at this, so don’t expect a perfect process. But if you, like me, receive a ballot application even though you’ve already voted or receive a ballot application addressed to the former tenant in your unit, do not try to double-dip. That’s called electoral fraud and mail theft, and they are crimes.

The 2020 Census

Speaking of mail related to civic engagement, this is also the perfect time to fill out your 2020 Census. Census data is used to determine how federal funding is distributed across the nation. For every Hoosier we miss in the 2020 Census, we miss out on $20k-$30k that would otherwise come into Indiana over the course of the next 10 years. And if you were away at college, you need to fill out your census according to the address where you spent most of the year.

It’s quite literally on us to ensure an accurate count and the most money for our community. It’s also the law. So, get on it and find more info at countmeindy.com

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is subjective and multi-faceted, and, likely, you’re already addressing issues of public concern in your regular routine. Voting and filling out your census are definitely a part of it, but so are donating and volunteering during a pandemic. 

If you are able and inclined, visit indy.gov/activity/covid-19-donate-and-volunteer to explore a variety of ways you can support the Indianapolis community during this time. For low-commitment, high-quality civic engagement, you can also sign up for newsletters from one or more of your favorite city departments here.

So, what about you? Are you registered to vote at your current address? Have you completed your 2020 Census? Have you voted in the 2020 Indiana Primary? If not, today’s a beautiful day for some civic engagement.

Meet Lindsay: Lindsay Trameri is a Public Information Officer in the City’s Department of Public Works and Office of Sustainability. When she’s not managing digital media or coordinating Mayor Hogsett’s internship program, she’s hanging out on the 800 block of Mass Ave or listening to showtunes while baking with her cat. @lindsaytrameri

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