The Allen County Republican Party announced Wednesday it has postponed its annual Lincoln Day Dinner – which was to have featured Donald Trump Jr. – because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And both the local GOP and the Allen County Democratic Party are urging voters to cast absentee ballots in Indiana's primary election, which has been shifted from May 5 to June 2 because of social distancing recommendations aimed at slowing the spread of the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said he hopes to reschedule the party's spring fundraising dinner with the eldest son of President Donald Trump as its keynote speaker.
Shine said nearly 1,000 tickets had been sold for the Lincoln Day Dinner, originally scheduled for April 23 at Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne. Payments for dinner reservations will be refunded in the next three weeks, he said.
“I don't think it's appropriate to have a political gathering at this time, ... when the nation is going through so much suffering and turmoil,” Shine said in a telephone interview.
The White House this week extended its social distancing guidelines, which discourage gatherings of more than 10 people, until April 30.
Shine said he doesn't believe the Lincoln Day Dinner can be arranged before the June 2 primary. Reservations will be reopened when a dinner date is selected, but the event will be “possibly far down the line,” he said, and could be combined with the party's annual Reagan Bean Dinner held ahead of the November general election.
These dinners have generated as much as $40,000 for the Republican organization – “They are our marquee events,” Shine said – so a potential cancellation could crimp fundraising.
The Indiana Election Commission has extended mail-in absentee voting in the June 2 primary to all registered voters. Both of Allen County's major political parties and the Allen County Election Board are encouraging people to vote by mail.
“The Allen County Republican Party strongly suggests that you take advantage of voting by absentee ballot,” the local GOP said Wednesday in a news release. It said voting exclusively by absentee ballot “is a distinct possibility.”
In a news release Sunday, the Allen County Democratic Party said: “We strongly advise everyone to vote by mail for the primary. We are in unprecedented and trying times.”
Common Cause of Indiana, Indiana Vote by Mail and the League of Women Voters of Indiana said Wednesday they sent a letter to the state election commission calling for absentee voting to be extended to all voters in the general election as well as the primary. Voting by mail in Indiana is typically restricted to certain people, including those expecting to be out of their county of residence on Election Day, are confined by illness, injury or disability, are older than 65 or who are scheduled to work during all 12 hours of voting on Election Day.
Absentee ballot applications are available from the Allen County Election Board at www.allencounty.us/election-board and by calling 260-449-7329. The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is 11:59 p.m. May 21. Ballots must be returned by noon June 2 to be counted.
Absentee ballot applications can be sent by mail to Allen County Election Board, 1 E. Main St., Suite 172, Fort Wayne, IN 46802; by email to acebab@allencounty.US; and by fax to 260-449-7908.
Voter registration ends May 4.