In general, a person must be registered in order to vote in Indiana. (Ind. Const. Art. 2 § 14)
A person must meet the following requirements to be a registered voter in Indiana:
1) be a citizen of the United States;
2) be at least eighteen (18) years of age on the day of the next general or municipal election held in November or a special election;
3) live in a precinct continuously for at least thirty (30) days before the next election; and
4) not currently be in prison following conviction of a crime. (Ind. Const. Art. 2 § 2; IC 3-7-13-1; IC 3-7-13-4)
There are also “fail-safe” procedures under state and federal law that provide procedures for certain persons to vote even though they do not meet the residency requirement. These fail-safe procedures will be discussed in more detail later.
A registered voter who will meet the age and residency requirements on the date of the next general, municipal, or special election may vote for nominees for general election races and political party offices of precinct committeeman and state convention delegate elected at a primary election, even though the voter is not yet 18 years of age on the date that the primary election is conducted.
A person who is a citizen of the United States at birth or who becomes a citizen of the United States after birth through the federal naturalization process may submit a voter registration application. Pursuant to HAVA, an applicant must answer the question “are you a citizen of the United States of America?” on the voter registration application. Procedures when an applicant leaves this question blank or answers “no” are discussed in more detail later.
A person must be at least eighteen (18) years of age on the date of the next general, municipal, or special election. However, in Indiana, a 17-year old may register to vote if they will be 18-years old on or before the date of the next general or municipal election held in November, or the date of a special election. Since there are no general or municipal elections in the year following the presidential election (2025, for example), some 16-year olds may also qualify to register to vote under this law if the individual will be at least 18 years of age by the date of the next general election (2026, for example). (IC 3-7-13-2)
Pursuant to HAVA, a voter registration form must ask and an applicant must answer the question “Will you be 18 years of age on or before Election Day?” A 17-year old voter who meets the age requirement by the date of the general, municipal, or special election (general and municipal elections occur in November) should answer ‘yes’ on the registration form if they register to vote before the primary election. (Procedures to follow when an applicant leaves this question blank or answers “no” are discussed in more detail later.)
For example, John Smith was born November 1, 2005, and will turn 18 in 2023. He decides to register to vote in February 2023. John should mark ‘yes’ in the box asking if he will be 18 on or before Election Day since November’s general election will be held on November 7, 2023. His registration form should be processed by the county voter registration official, and he may then vote for the first time in the May primary election.
State law allows a 17-year-old eligible to vote in a primary election to nominate candidates for the November ballot and to vote for the political party offices of precinct committeeman and state convention delegate. A 17-year-old voter is not permitted to vote in a special election unless the person turns 18 on or before the date of the special election, and is not permitted to vote on a public question as these contests are not a nomination; rather, it is the final, determining contest. County election administrators must create a “special” 17-year-old primary election ballot that does not include the public question or special election, if applicable. A special “underage” voter special designation is also included with the voter’s record in the ePollbook or printed Election Day poll list to assist poll workers in identifying a 17-year old voter in a primary election.
Voter registration rules regarding a person’s eligibility to register and vote after criminal conviction vary from state-to-state. In Indiana, a person who is convicted of a crime and imprisoned following conviction does not permanently lose their right to register and vote. Instead, an individual is not entitled to register to vote or cast a ballot while imprisoned following conviction of a crime.
A person who was registered to vote before conviction and imprisonment may have their registration moved to cancelled status only if the individual is currently imprisoned after conviction. (IC 3-7-13-4; IC 3-7-46-2) County voter registration officials are assisted by the Indiana Department of Correction and local county sheriff departments in keeping track of which voters are disenfranchised by providing information on persons who are imprisoned following conviction of a crime. (IC 3-7-46)
It is important for county voter registration officials to know when the individual’s term of imprisonment ends to determine if the voter’s record should be moved to a cancelled status within SVRS. If the term of imprisonment ended before your office takes action, then the individual’s registration record status should not be moved to “cancelled” because the person is no longer currently imprisoned. Both parts of the fact analysis – convicted of a crime and currently imprisoned – must be true in order to change the voter’s registration status. Further, orders from the court may not be indicative that a person is currently imprisoned following conviction of a crime. The county sheriff or the Indiana Department of Correction will have the best information to determine the individual’s current status as it relates to imprisonment following conviction of a crime.
A disenfranchised voter’s registration is not automatically restored in Indiana. Once an individual is no longer imprisoned following conviction, the individual may register to vote, even if the person is on probation, parole, or home detention, or enrolled in a variety of community correction programs. (IC 3-7-13-5; IC 3-7-16-6)
A county voter registration office should NOT move the registration record of a person sentenced solely to time served, probation, parole, home detention, or a variety of community correction programs to cancelled status within SVRS. A person who is in jail awaiting trial or not currently serving a sentence following conviction should not have their voter registration status moved to cancelled and remains eligible to apply to register to vote and to vote. (IC 3- 7-13-5; IC 3-7-13-6)
Unlike the age and citizenship questions, there is not a separate question on the voter registration application regarding imprisonment following conviction of a crime. However, the applicant is asked to affirm that the applicant is not currently in prison after being convicted of a crime when the applicant signs the voter registration application.
A person who resides in a precinct continuously before a general, municipal, or special election for at least thirty (30) days before the date of the election may apply to register to vote. (IC 3-7-13-1) In other words, the person does not need to live in the precinct for 30-days before registering to vote; instead, the individual must be living in that precinct for the 30-days preceding the date of the next election. Our state’s 29-day statewide voter registration deadline allows for a person moving into their precinct on day 30 before the election to be registered; if not, certain fail-safes may be applicable. A person who will meet the residency requirement on the day of the next general, municipal, or special election may register and vote in the primary election. (IC 3-7-13-2)
Residence means the place: 1) where a person has the person’s true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment; and 2) to which the person has, whenever absent, the intention of returning. (IC 3-5-2-42.5) In addition, the election code contains standards used to determine the residency of a voter, candidate, or a person holding public office. (IC 3-5-5) While this definition and these standards are helpful, there are some recurring issues raised with regard to providing information about a registration applicant’s residence for those who are homeless, mobile, in college, or overseas. These issues will be discussed in detail later in the Guide.
For college students, they may only register at one of two places: 1) The address where they live while attending school; OR 2) The address where they live while not attending school.
NOTE: the intent of where students plan to return after attending college or during summer and winter breaks is not to be factored into the decision to approve their registration. The student may register at school, if they so choose. It is a violation of election law to challenge a voter on the basis that: 1) the voter is enrolled in an educational institution; or 2) the voter’s address on the registration record is at an address which is housing provided for students by an educational institution. (IC 3-5-5-7)
If an individual is adjudged mentally ill and committed to an institution for individuals with a mental illness, the individual may state either of the following, but not both, as the individual’s residence for purposes of voting:
1) The address of the institution where the individual has been committed; OR
2) The address where the individual lives when the individual is not committed to an institution. (IC 3-5-5-17)