Bartholomew County has set a new early voting record and county officials are expecting a record turnout for today’s election.

When early voting ended at noon Monday, 16,109 Bartholomew County residents had cast early ballots, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said. The previous record was 6,413 ballots cast early for the 2012 presidential election.

Arriving at the Bartholomew County Courthouse just before noon Monday, a Columbus couple found themselves as the final voters to cast early ballots locally.

Since Aaron Watson, 21, has Sundays and Mondays off work from his family owned business, he and his wife, Cheyanna Watson, 19, decided at the last minute to cast their votes early.

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Both voting for the first time, each said they were motivated to join the 140-person line at the courthouse largely because of the presidential race.

“The future of this country is at a very big crossroads right now,” Aaron Watson said. “I’m really hoping that the American people come through, and make the right decision.”

When the couple left the Courthouse just before 2 p.m. Monday, county officials calculated that 29 percent of Bartholomew County’s 55,450 voters cast early ballots in this election.

Phelps said he expects this to be a record turnout in Bartholomew County.

In terms of total votes cast in the past two presidential elections:

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, which was the all-time high.

Bartholomew County isn’t the only geographic area where early voting was rampant.

Through Sunday, the state counted 711,337 absentee ballots cast in person and through other methods such as mail-in for today’s election, Secretary of State Connie Lawson said.

That’s nearly 49,000 ballots more than Indiana’s previous early voting record set in the 2008 general election.

While officials around the state say the large early voting numbers could help keep wait times down at Indiana polling places today, Phelps said there are no guarantees of that happening locally.

“But with what we’ve done, I would be shocked if we had two-hour lines (in Bartholomew County),” Phelps said.

The county’s top election official said he will utilize the simplest and most effective way of communicating with voters.

The clerk’s office will use its Facebook page to notify voters which voting centers have lines, which centers are not as busy, and any other information that could help voters avoid delays. The clerk’s office also has asked the media to take the information from the clerk’s office and share it on their websites.

“We will utilize our poll workers to find out which areas are getting hit the hardest,” Phelps said. “We will then ask our inspectors to let people (waiting to sign in) know where the lines are the shortest.”

But once a voter signs in at a vote center, the voter no longer has the option of going to another location, Phelps said.

Voters will receive a short explanation of how the voting machine works, as well as a reminder that straight-party voting will not allow a voter to automatically cast a vote in the at-large council races. Voters must scroll to that race and vote for it separately because there are multiple candidates being chosen for multiple seats.

At a glance

VOTING HOURS

Today is Election Day, and polls will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 18 vote centers in Bartholomew County.

MUST-KNOW INFO

Things every voter should know before casting a ballot:

  • An Indiana driver’s license, Indiana photo ID card, United States passport, military ID or a state university-issued photo ID can be accepted to vote. An out-of-state driver’s license cannot be accepted. The local Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch, 745 Schnier Drive, will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today for people who need a driver’s license or state ID card.
  • When you arrive at one of the county’s 18 vote centers, the first posted sign you can expect to see is a reminder to turn off cell phones. Signs will remind voters that they cannot wear clothing, buttons or hats that have political messages.
  • Your signature will be required twice – both on an electronic pad and on paper – before you are handed papers that will allow you to get in line to vote.
  • If there are people waiting to vote, make sure to sign in with the election inspectors before joining the line. Once you sign in, you cannot switch to another vote center if there is a long line. A map will be available at each vote center to show where other vote centers are located.
  • According to state law, a voter is limited to only two minutes to vote on a voting machine. Each voter should review his or her ballot ahead of time to reduce confusion and any questions. A voter can go online at indianavoters.com and click on “Who’s on your Ballot,” to review their ballot.
  • The wait to vote should amount to roughly one minute for each person who is ahead of you, poll workers at Donner Center estimated.
  • Despite false reports on social media, people cannot vote by text or email. To vote today in Bartholomew County, you must visit one of the 18 vote centers.
  • Voters who are in line at 6 p.m. at a voting center when the polls close will be allowed to vote.

JOIN THE PARTY

The Bartholomew County Republican Party will hold its election night watch party 6 p.m. today at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 2480 W. Jonathan Moore Pike, Columbus.

The Bartholomew County Democratic Party will hold its election night watch party at Hotel Indigo, 400 Brown St., Columbus.

RIDES TO THE POLLS

Here are numbers to call for rides to Bartholomew County voting centers on election day.

  • Republican: 812-350-5124
  • Democrat: 812-418-8594

CONNECT WITH THE REPUBLIC

Follow Election Day developments in Bartholomew County online at therepublic.com, then check back after the polls close at 6 p.m. Tuesday and throughout the evening for voting updates as they come in.

Share your election day stories with The Republic by email at editorial@therepublic.com

ON THE BALLOT

NOTE TO VOTERS: In all races except where specified below, voters cast ballots for one candidate. All voters in Bartholomew County will vote for all races listed below with the exception of state senator, state representative, town council and school board, which vary by geographic districts (marked with an asterisk).
Federal
President: Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence (R); Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine (D); Gary Johnson/Bill Weld (L)
U.S. Senator: Todd Young (R); Evan Bayh (D); Lucy Brenton (L)
State
Governor: Eric Holcomb/Suzanne Crough (R); John R. Gregg/Christina Hale (D); Rex Bell/Karl (K-Tat) Tatgenhorst (L)
Attorney General: Curtis T. Hill Jr. (R); Lorenzo Arrendondo (D)
State Department of Public Instruction: Jennifer McCormick (R); Glenda Ritz (D)
U.S. Representative District 6: Luke Messer (R); Barry Welsh (D); Rich Turvey (L)
State Senator District 44*: Eric A. Koch (R); Linda Kay Henderson (D); Darin S. Kinser (L)
State Representative District 57*: Sean R. Eberhart
State Representative District 59*: Milo Smith (R); Robert M. (Bob) Pitman
State Representative District 69*: Jim Lucas (R)
Public Question: Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding a Section 39 to Article 1 to provide that the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to: 1) Promote wildlife conservation and management; and 2) Preserve the future of hunting and fishing?
Local
Judge of the Circuit Court: Kelly S. Benjamin (R)
Bartholomew County Coroner: Clayton R. Nolting (R); Paula K. Rothrock (D)
Bartholomew County Surveyor: E.R. Gray (R)
Bartholomew County Commissioner District 1:Larry S. Kleinhenz (R)
Bartholomew County Commissioner District 3: Rick Flohr (R); Brad Woodcock (D)
Bartholomew County Council at-large (vote for 3): William F. (Bill) Lentz (R); Matt Miller (R); Evelyn Strietelmeier Pence (R); Pam Clark (D); Lynne L. Fleming (D); Diane Hawes (D); Josh Brown (L)
Hartsville Town Council (vote for 3)*: Michael W. (Mike) Crull (R); Rex L. Dora (R); Steven Rucker (R); Lisa L. Hayes (D); Mark Imel (D); Jeremy Kimball (D)
Hope Clerk-Treasurer*:
Diane Burton (I)
Hope Town Council Ward 1*: Edward Johnson (D)
Hope Town Council Ward 2*: Nellie Meek (D)
Hope Town Council Ward 3*: Ohmer J. Miller (R)
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation District 3*: James Persinger (nonpartisan); Polly Verbanic (nonpartisan)
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation District 5*: Pat Bryant (nonpartisan); Tim Woods (nonpartisan)
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation District 7*: Jeff Caldwell (nonpartisan); Dennis White (nonpartisan)
Edinburgh School Board — Town of Edinburgh seat (Vote for 2)*: Cathy J. Hamm (nonpartisan); William (Bill) Jones (nonpartisan); Curtis Rooks (nonpartisan); Alice Nancy Taulman (nonpartisan)
Flatrock Hawcreek School Corporation Flatrock District*: Brian Rose (nonpartisan)
Flatrock Hawcreek School Corporation Hawcreek District*: Steve Wilson (nonpartisan)
Indiana Court of Appeals First District Judicial Retention: Shall Judge Edward W. Najam Jr. be retained in office? (nonpartisan)
Indiana Court of Appeals Fourth District Judicial Retention: Shall Judge Patricia A. Riley be retained in office? (nonpartisan)

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