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More Bartholomew County residents cast an early ballot this year than in any other primary during the past six years.

By Monday afternoon, 1,399 people, or 2.6 percent of the 52,152 registered voters in Bartholomew County, had voted early, according to county elections supervisor Jay Phelps.

Of that total, 1,010 voted in person, 310 cast ballots by mail, and 79 voted through the travel board, Phelps said.

Compared to recent primary elections, early voting this spring was:

Up 14.3 percent from 2012 presidential primary (1,224 votes)

Up 67.9 percent from 2010 county election primary (833 votes).

Up 2.1 percent from 2008 presidential primary (1,370 votes)

Both Phelps and Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines said they aren’t sure whether the total represents a high voter interest in the primary races, or simply reflect residents wishing to avoid the potential of long lines at their precinct today.

However, county GOP Chairwoman Barb Hackman gave credit for the high turnout to good candidates and a competitive Republican ticket.

“The early voting gives you an idea of what’s going to come,” Hackman said. “Historically, the sheriff’s race, as well as the weather, always has a large impact on voter turnout.”

Four years ago, incumbent Sheriff Mark Gorbett was unchallenged in the primary and general election, winning a second term. Gorbett is prohibited by state law from seeking a third consecutive term.

Besides the four Republican candidates hoping to succeed Gorbett, several voters in line Monday morning also expressed interest in voting for one of the three Republican candidates seeking the nomination for Bartholomew Superior Court 2 judge, Phelps said.

One hour before early voting ended at noon Monday, more than 40 residents stood outside the Voter Registration office to cast ballots. The 25 people who were still in line when absentee voting was supposed to end were allowed to cast ballots, as state law provides.

The race for the 6th Congressional District seat is the only contested race on the Democratic countywide ballot. With interest high in both the sheriff and judge races, Hackman anticipates some non-Republicans might request GOP ballots today.

The Democrats will likely hold a caucus early next month to determine candidates for ballot openings, Party Chairwoman Priscilla Scalf said.

“We have a lot of people waiting to see how the primary goes,” Scalf said. “We get interest from people, but then they decide they aren’t quite ready to make that step to run.”

However, Scalf said some potential candidates already have told her they plan to sit out this election cycle.

Political parties have until June 30 to fill ballot vacancies for the November general election. The Libertarian Party may do the same as long as it submits paperwork by July 3, Hines said.

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