Early in-person voting at record pace

Bartholomew County voters continued to turn out in historic numbers at the former Carson’s store at FairOaks Mall to vote early in person for the Nov. 3 presidential election — with around 45 voters still in line when the polls closed at 5 p.m. Friday.

The last voter on Friday night cast her ballot at 5:45 p.m., election officials said.

A total of 922 voters showed up Friday at the former Carson’s store at FairOaks Mall, an all-time record at this point during the early voting period.

Friday’s total raised the weekly total to 4,408 votes cast and the nine-day total to 7,475 votes cast since early in-person voting started on Oct. 6, said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps.

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Last week, a total of 3,066 votes were cast in early voting at the mall.

Additionally, a total of 5,141 Bartholomew County voters had cast ballots through the mail as of Friday afternoon, raising the overall vote total to 12,783 with 18 days to go before Election Day — a record for this point of the early voting period.

In other words, nearly one-quarter of registered voters in Bartholomew County have already voted with more than two weeks to go before the fall election.

By comparison, a total of 2,970 total votes had been cast at the same point in 2016, 1,311 in 2012 and 1,145 in 2008, according to county records.

The high turnout has prompted election officials to add an eighth voting machine at the former Carson’s space, Phelps said. Election officials plan to add one or two more machines next week in anticipation of even higher turnout as Election Day on Nov. 3 draws nearer.

“I think that’s kind of a preview of what’s to come,” Phelps said.

The high turnout in Bartholomew County mirrors trends being seen in much of the United States.

As of Friday, nearly 21 million Americans had already cast ballots in the 2020 election, a record-shattering avalanche of early votes driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has transformed the way the nation votes, The Associated Press reported.

The 20.8 million ballots submitted as of Friday afternoon represents 15% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, even as eight states are not yet reporting their totals and voters still have more than two weeks to cast ballots, according to wire reports.

Americans’ rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.

So far the turnout has been lopsided, with Democrats turning out to vote outnumbering Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in the 42 states included in The Associated Press count.

Republicans have been bracing themselves for this early Democratic surge for months, as they’ve watched President Donald Trump rail against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud, according to wire reports.

Polling, and now early voting, suggest the rhetoric has turned his party’s rank and file away from a method of voting that, traditionally, they dominated in the weeks before Election Day, according to the AP.

But it does not necessarily mean Democrats will lead in votes by the time ballots are counted. Both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could, in a matter of hours, dramatically shift the dynamic, according to wire reports.

That’s why, despite Trump’s rhetoric, his campaign and party are encouraging their own voters to cast ballots by mail or early and in-person, according to wire reports. The campaign, which has been sending volunteers and staffers into the field for months despite the pandemic, touts a swell in voter registration in key swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania — a sharp reversal from the usual pattern as a presidential election looms.

But it’s had limited success in selling absentee voting. In key swing states, Republicans remain far less interested in voting by mail.

However, it’s hard to tell which way turnout will eventually fall. Republicans may be just as motivated, but saving themselves for Election Day, according to wire reports.

“High turnout can benefit either side,” Democratic data strategist Tom Bonier told the AP. “It just depends.”

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Early in-person voting will be held at the former Carson’s space at FairOaks Mall weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Oct. 30.

Additionally, early voting will be held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the former Carson’s store the two Saturdays prior to election day — Oct. 24 and Oct. 31 — and from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 2. No voting will be held at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.

Visit indianavoters.in.gov to check your registration status, request an absentee by mail ballot and see who is on the ballot.