COLUMBUS — Absentee voting in Bartholomew and Jennings counties so far has paled in comparison to the last presidential year.
But election officials said voting for the May 8 primaries is average when compared to other years and should increase this week.
“If you compare it to 2008, it’s nothing,” said Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines. “We were prepared. We had additional machines set up. We didn’t know what the presidential (election) turnout would be.”
Some voters waited in line about two hours to vote in the 2008 primary, Hines said. That year, 1,370 absentee ballots were cast in the primary.
Her office prepared for this year’s primary by setting up four voting machines in the courthouse, and a fifth is available.
However, this year’s GOP presidential primary saw one of the leading contenders, Rick Santorum, drop from the race the day after absentee voting started in Indiana (April 9), essentially handing the nomination to Mitt Romney. President Barack Obama has no challengers in the Democratic primary.
Through Monday, 300 people had walked into the Bartholomew County Courthouse to cast absentee ballots. The Voter Registration office also has mailed 311 ballots, of which 190 have been returned.
On Monday, 53 people walked in to vote, which is the most of any day so far. Hines said she expects voting to increase this week, and possibly surpass 2004, which had 949 absentee votes, 2006 with 818 and 2010 with 844.
Bartholomew County has contested races for one judge and two county commissioners. Also, the 6th District congressional race has multiple Democratic and Republican candidates, and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is facing a challenge within the party from State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Jennings County election deputy Josh Proctor said absentee voting has been “average” compared to previous primary elections, even with two contested county commissioner races and one contested county council race.
As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, 151 people had walked into the Jennings County Courthouse to cast absentee ballots since absentee voting began April 9. And, of the 535 ballots mailed to voters, 248 had been returned.
This year’s absentee voting in Jennings County is better than years that had city primaries, but trails other years. Last year’s city elections resulted in 58 walk-in voters, and of the 199 ballots mailed 165 were returned, Proctor said.
In 2008, the previous presidential election year, Jennings County had 400 walk-in voters, 1,455 ballots mailed and 1,137 returned.
“I do believe we’ll pick up a little,” Proctor said.
People can cast absentee ballots early at the courthouses until noon on May 7.
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