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Published on September 12, 2020 7:59 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) ? THE Indiana Republican Party is directly appealing to voters across the state to submit mail-in ballots even as President Donald Trump has questioned the integrity of mail voting and state GOP leaders have rejected calls for easing the rules on it.

Applications for absentee mail-in ballots have been mailed to an undisclosed number of voters throughout the state by the state Republican and Democratic parties. Democratic leaders continue pushing for the state to allow no-excuse mail-in voting as Indiana did for the spring primary because of coronavirus concerns, but Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other GOP officials have, instead, insisted on the safety of in-person voting.

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The Republican mailing urges voters to mail their ballot application by Oct. 14 and then ?Return your voted ballot immediately. Due to higher than normal absentee volume, there may be delays in the delivery and processing of your ballot.?

Holly Lawson, spokeswoman for Holcomb?s reelection campaign and the state Republican Party, declined to provide any information about how many applications were mailed out, who was targeted or the cost of the mailing.

?Absentee voting by mail, along with early voting in person and Election Day voting, has long been a part of our get-out-the-vote plan, and this year is no different,? Lawson told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette.

Indiana election officials estimate voters could submit 1.3 million to 1.8 million mailed ballots for this fall?s election, a level that would be 10 times the state?s total four years ago.

The distribution of ballot applications by the political parties and interest groups is legal and has been common over several elections, according to the Indiana secretary of state?s office. It is the responsibility of county election officials to approve the applications and mail actual ballots to the voters.

People not expecting the applications have contacted county election offices with questions.

?It confuses the voter,? said Beth Liming, the county clerk in northern Indiana's Cass County.

Mail-in voting has become contentious across the country as Trump has derided such ballots as vulnerable to fraud, even though multiple studies have debunked the notion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the mail ballots as a safer alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said health concerns should take greater importance as more than 100,000 people in the state have been confirmed with coronavirus infections.

?Eric Holcomb is telling us it?s safe to vote in-person while quietly helping Republicans vote from the safety of their homes,? Zody said. ?Eric Holcomb is acting like he?s the party boss pulling strings to win elections instead of leading for every Hoosier. His political maneuvering is putting lives at risk.?