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Voters wary of absentee ballot applications they didn't ask for

Many voters say they are getting absentee ballot applications they didn't ask for and are wondering if they are real, legal and reliable.

INDIANAPOLIS — In an election year where the number of expected absentee ballots could determine numerous outcomes, voters are hyper-sensitive about allegations of voter fraud, problems with postal delivery and uncounted ballots.

Many are getting absentee ballot applications they didn't ask for. They are wondering if they are real, legal and reliable. 13News went looking for answers.

Thomas Bennett's cell phone keeps ringing with unsolicited offers from New York and Pennsylvania — states he lived in before moving to Pendleton, Indiana.

"Don't miss your vote," Bennett read. "Hit this link and get your mail-in ballot."

"And a third one yesterday from Michigan," Bennett said. "And I never lived in Michigan."

Bennett said he traced the phone numbers to a political action committee trying to prevent President Trump from winning a second term.

Other voters have also contacted 13News. They were surprised by absentee ballot applications mailed to them by Indiana's political parties. 

Is this legal?

A spokesperson for Indiana's Secretary of State and Election commission said it is completely legal and quite common for political parties and political action groups to send out applications for absentee ballots.

It's the responsibility of individual counties to approve or deny them.

"It is not open to fraud," insisted Russell Hollis, deputy director of the Marion County clerk's office. 

Hollis explained how election workers check voter registration records, names, addresses and signatures before sending out an absentee ballot.

But what about Bennett, who was invited to vote in three states? He's worried about interstate fraud.

"Is that ballot going to be counted and cancel out the actual true ballot of someone that actually lives there?" Bennett asked.

It shouldn't. According to election officials, there is a system of cross checks.

"[...] that does prevent someone from having an active voter registration in Indiana as well as other states," Hollis said.

Bennett said he deleted the texts and didn't request any absentee ballot applications. He intends to vote in person.

Make sure the application is headed to the Indiana Election Division or your local county election officials.

If you are planning on voting by mail and are wondering if the application is legitimate, check the return mailing address.

The Tippecanoe County Board of Elections and Registration reminded voters to be aware of where voters send their absentee ballot applications. For some voters who have received the forms without requesting them, the return address on the included return envelope is to the Indiana Election Division. The Indiana Election Division will then forward the form to the appropriate county. While the ballot request forms are legitimate, there could be an unexpected delay because the mail would be making an extra stop.

County election boards must receive absentee ballot requests by Oct. 22. State leaders recommend filling out and submitting the application early to account for any delays.

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