Early voting begins Wednesday; here’s a preview

A few surprises await local residents when early voting begins Wednesday at the Bartholomew County Courthouse for the Nov. 8 general election.

New this year will be a requirement that people who vote a straight-ticket ballot must scroll to the races involving at-large positions, as those will no longer receive straight-ticket votes automatically.

A new state law enacted in March requires voters to select candidates for at-large races, including this year’s race for Bartholomew County Council at large.

Seven candidates are vying for three at-large council seats.

The Republican nominees are incumbents Bill Lentz and Evelyn Pence, as well as political newcomer Matt Miller. They are being challenged by Democrats Pam Clark, Lynne Fleming and Diane Hawes, as well as Libertarian candidate Josh Brown.

Manual choices will also have to be made for the non-partisan school board races, for Hartsville Town Council at large and for the top-of-the-ballot referendum asking voters to make hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right in Indiana.

But the changes should require no more than 90 additional seconds at the polls for each voter, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.

Multiple reminders will be provided at the courthouse, as well as each at the other early voting sites that open near the end of the month, said Shari Lentz, Bartholomew County voter registration and election supervisor.

While the busiest of the 18 vote centers will have more machines and more poll workers on Nov. 8, their success in reducing long waits still depends on early voting, Phelps said.

“If folks don’t come out and vote early, there will be long lines and chaos on Election Day,” the clerk said.

Another ballot surprise for some voters is that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is not on Indiana’s ballot — meaning anyone supporting her will have to write in her name.

Since the Green Party is not considered independent, a state law enacted more than 100 years ago requires a certified write-in process to have Stein’s name on the ballot that wasn’t completed, Phelps said.

“But there will be a place on the ballot where folks can click in, and it will pull up a keyboard on the machine,” Phelps said. “You just type in her name, and hit ‘submit’.”

In contrast to the Green Party, Libertarians were able to gain enough support to get their candidates on the ballot in three major races that includes Gary Johnson in the presidential race, along with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Beside having her name on the ballot, Libertarian Lucy Brenton also will appear with Republican Todd Young and Democrat Evan Bayh during the Oct. 18 U.S. Senate debate organized by the Indiana Debate Commission at the studio of Indianapolis public broadcasting station WFYI.

And when Republican Eric Holcomb and Democrat John Gregg square off in the final televised Indiana gubernatorial debate Oct. 25, they will again be joined by Libertarian candidate Rex Bell, the third person on the ballot.

On the regional level, voters will decide whether to give State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, a sixth consecutive term — or replace him with retired Mill Race Center director Bob Pitman, a Democrat, in the 59th District.

Besides the open council at-large seats, the most high-profile Bartholomew County government race involves Republican Rick Flohr, who is being challenged in his efforts to win a second term as the 3rd District county commissioner by Democrat Brad Woodcock.

Voters also will be selecting a new Bartholomew County coroner, choosing between Republican Clayton Nolting and Democrat Paula Rothrock.

Voter registration

Tuesday will be the final day that voter registration will be accepted at the Bartholomew County Courthouse for the Nov. 8 general election.

As of Thursday, there were 55,088 registered voters in Bartholomew County. That’s 653 more than were signed up to cast their ballots in the May primary, and could rise by another 300 by the time voter registration ends at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.

Here’s a comparison of the number of registered voters in Bartholomew County during recent presidential elections.

2016: 55,088 (as of Oct. 6)

2012: 51,855

2008: 53,658

Since there are 67 different ballots being used in Bartholomew County, residents are urged to go online to indianavoters.com, to get a preview of the candidates and races they are eligible to vote for.

That same website can be also used to find out if you are already registered to vote.

Where, when you can vote

Early voting at Courthouse: Wednesday is the first day of early voting in Bartholomew County, which is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Nov.7, as well as on the two Saturdays leading up to the Nov. 8 election day — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5. The Bartholomew County Courthouse is located at 234 Washington St.

Early voting at vote centers: Early votes can be cast at three Bartholomew County vote centers the week prior to election day. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, plus 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. Early voting can be done at Donner Center, 739 22nd St., using the back entrance at 19th and Sycamore streets; MainSource Bank, 2310 W. Jonathan Moore Pike; and Flintwood Wesleyan Church, 5300 25th St.

Election Day voting: Registered voters in Bartholomew County can place their votes 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 Election Day at 18 countywide vote centers throughout Bartholomew County. For a list of those sites, visit bartholomew.in.gov.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.