WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday Aug. 15, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision that upheld Indiana’s restrictions on who can vote by mail in the state. In Indiana, voters may use mail-in ballots under 11 circumstances, one of which is being 65 years of age or older.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters who were eligible to vote in-person in the November 2020 election, but who were not entitled to vote using a mail-in ballot, filed a lawsuit alleging that Indiana’s restrictions on who can submit mail-in ballots violates the 26th Amendment by denying or abridging the right to vote on account of age. The plaintiffs asked the court to “extend the privilege of voting by mail during the pandemic to Plaintiffs and all Indiana voters in the November 3, 2020, general election.”
During the 2020 election cycle, the plaintiffs were denied emergency relief. Then, in 2022, the district court issued a decision on the merits of the case, and again declined to grant the plaintiffs requested relief. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the 7th Circuit, which heard oral argument on May 17, 2023 and issued its decision on Aug. 15.
By upholding the status quo, this week’s decision is a loss for voters under the age of 65 who wish to vote by mail but do not have a qualifying excuse. The decision, issued by three judges, two of which were appointed by Republican presidents, holds that “Indiana’s granting the opportunity to vote by mail to elderly voters does not abridge the right to vote of those under sixty-five. The provision does not violate the Twenty- Sixth Amendment.”
The court found that because Indiana provides various ways for registered voters to exercise their right to vote and absentee voting is available to those over 65 and those with a qualifying excuse, there is not an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.
During the 2020 election, mail-in voting was immensely popular amongst younger voters, specifically those aged 18-29, 45% of whom reported voting by mail. The 7th Circuit’s decision is a missed opportunity to ensure voters of all ages have the opportunity to vote by mail if they so choose.