A chance for no-wait voting and a Columbus native on the top of the GOP ticket prompted a steady turnout for early voting at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.
Short lines formed a few times Wednesday morning, the first hours of early voting locally. But for the most part, voters were able to walk into the first floor of the courthouse, register and finish voting in just a few minutes.
Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps predicted as many as 250 people would visit the clerk’s office precinct on Wednesday — and the office had already had nearly 150 people at lunchtime. In comparison, first day totals were 87 voters in 2012 and 125 in 2008.
Keyahn Vedadi, 19, a 2016 Columbus North graduate, was among the first 150 people to vote, casting his first vote in a presidential election.
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He won’t be in Columbus for the Nov. 8 general election — he’s heading off to college in Florida to study filmmaking — but he had heard that early voting was available and decided to stop in.
Vedadi said he wasn’t affected by all the national politicking and controversy of recent days over the presidential race, including the 2005 interview of Donald Trump that surfaced Friday and included controversial remarks about women.
Vedadi said had already made up his mind.
“I just chose not to vote for Trump,” he said. “I just could not vote for him, so I voted for Hillary.”
Dianne Bock, Hope, voted just before Vedadi and said she stopped in to avoid the crowd.
Some election officials are predicting that a heavy voter turnout will create lines at vote centers Nov. 8, which will be the second time the centers have been used in a countywide election.
The fact that Columbus native Gov. Mike Pence is on the ticket as Trump’s vice president is something Bock could support.
“That is so wonderful,” she said of Pence’s selection. “I’m Trump/Pence all the way.”
Three voting machines were set up in the waiting area for the clerk’s office and voter registration office, and Phelps said he will consider adding one or two more depending on demand. A roped-off area for a line was also set up, but was not needed for most of Wednesday.
While helping voters who stopped in, office staff members also were working hard on keyboarding in more than 1,200 new voter registrations received Tuesday before the deadline.
With an 11:59 p.m. Tuesday online filing deadline, Phelps said it will probably be early next week before all of the online registrations are entered into the county’s voter registration computer system.
Many of the voters who were casting ballots Wednesday said they knew they would be unable to get to the polls Nov. 8 because of planned medical procedures, or because they are snowbirds and are heading south to Florida for the winter. Some said they delayed their return to Florida until the early voting opened.
Jim Dudley of Columbus is among those who soon will be heading south to Florida. Dudley, who will be 80 in December, said he has been voting since age 21, missing only one election when he was in the military.
“I’m not happy with what’s going on,” he said.
He complimented Bartholomew County on adopting vote centers, saying they are a more effective way to have elections, by bringing more precincts together in one voting location.
Others who early voted Wednesday said their action was about checking off important things on their to-do list.
Mabel Baker of Columbus said she usually votes early — and since she was out on other errands Wednesday morning, she stopped in at the Courthouse to vote.
“I was out and I just wanted to get it all done at one time,” she said.
Jane Meek of Columbus said she was downtown for another reason, but cast her vote when she realized that early voting was available.
“You can’t say anything or complain if you don’t show up to vote,” she said.
Her theory was echoed by Joan Cowan of Columbus, who said it was her responsibility and her right to vote in every election.
“You can’t badmouth them unless you vote for them,” she said.
While the voter traffic was steady Wednesday, Phelps predicted the largest early voting day at the courthouse will be the Saturday before the Nov. 8 election, where as many as 300 to 400 people are expected.
Donner Center’s satellite early voting facility is another location that will be busy that Saturday, he said.
One person who knows how busy early voting can be is the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy who provides security at the Courthouse entrance and supervises the metal detector.
On Wednesday, deputy Jonathan Allen was at the entrance, helping people navigate the security routine.
Some early voters were initially a little hesitant, but Allen put them at ease and patiently indicated how the process worked.
Once each person was checked, Allen told them which door to take to enter the office and cast their vote.
Early voting at the Courthouse is the only location where voters go through a security scan, emptying their pocket change into a bowl and allowing a search of purses and bags. Visitors who set off the “beep” of the metal detector receive a wand scan similar to what many travelers experience before traveling by plane.
At one point, Allen was using the wand to check a husband and wife who had arrived to vote, and the three ended up laughing over Allen trying to search both of them in the small area on the other side of the metal detector.
“It looks like we’re doing an interpretive dance here,” Allen said as the couple prepared to pick up their belongings and head in to vote.
Between now and through election day, Phelps said he is expecting a record turnout of about 75 percent of registered voters in Bartholomew County, with 35,000 to 40,000 voters casting ballots.
In comparison, 29,755 Bartholomew County voters cast ballots (57.4 percent turnout) in the November 2012 general election. That was down from 31,570 votes cast (58.8 percent turnout) in the 2008 general election.
Phelps himself didn’t early vote Wednesday, saying he prefers to wait until election day.
“It’s a family thing. On Election Day, we get the family together and go to a vote center,” he said.
Early voting began Wednesday at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.
Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through Nov. 7, as well as on the two Saturdays leading up to election day — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
Registered voters can also mail in absentee ballots, available from county election offices, that must be returned by Oct. 31.
Week before election day: 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.
Voting on election day: Registered voters in Bartholomew County can cast 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.
2012: 29,755 of 51,855 registered voters (57.4 percent) in Bartholomew County cast ballots for Nov. 6, 2012 general election.
2008: 31,570 of 53,658 registered voters (58.8 percent) in Bartholomew County cast ballots for the Nov. 4, 2008 election.
Source: Bartholomew County Clerk’s Office
There are 67 different ballots that will be used in Bartholomew County for the November general election, based on where registered voters live.
Everyone will vote for president of the United States, governor of Indiana and the second U.S. Senate representative for Indiana, as well as countywide races — commissioner, council and coroner, for example.
Geography will determine which races you vote for in the Indiana House of Representatives, Indiana Senate, local public school board or municipal races, however.
Voters can find general ballot information at the county website, bartholomewin.gov, or their individual specific geography-based ballot at indianavoters.com by entering your county, your name and date of birth.