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Officials anticipate strong turnout at polls Tuesday

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Turnout for Tuesday’s election could be larger than usual based on a brisk pace of voters casting their ballots early and some hotly contested races.

Republican voters are choosing among four candidates for sheriff who have spent more than $90,000 combined trying to claim a spot in the November general election.

Three candidates each also are vying for:

Superior Court 2 judge

Bartholomew County Council District 4

Columbus Township trustee

District 43 state senator

Republican candidates are dominating the ballots, although the incumbent judge in Superior Court 2 had previously run as a Democrat.

Republican voters also will determine whether challengers oust incumbents in the District 59 state representative and District 1 County Council races.

Democrats didn’t file for many offices, but there are three candidates in the 6th District U.S. House race to choose from. The winner will face Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Luke Messer in the fall.

“Each of the contested races have (piqued) the voters interest and hopefully will bring more people out for the primary,” Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines said.

So will good weather. The AccuWeather forecast for Tuesday is partly sunny and a high temperature of 78 degrees.

“A great weather forecast almost always means better voter turnout,” Hines said.

Hines predicted at least 21 percent of registered voters would cast ballots Tuesday.

Early voting up

On Thursday, five days before the election, 76 people came to the Bartholomew County Courthouse to cast an absentee ballot. That was the most for any single day since early voting started April 8.

Thursday’s activity pushed the county’s walk-in voting to 596, ahead of the pace during 2010 and 2012 primaries, according to voter registration office records.

Five days before the 2010 primary, the best comparison because similar races are on the ballot, 424 county residents voted early. That election ended with 511 walk-ins and 19.65 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

Five days before the 2012 primary, a presidential election year, 573 voters had come to the courthouse to cast ballots. That election finished with 800 walk-ins and 23.87 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

Voters had nine hours Friday and seven on Saturday to cast early ballots at the courthouse. Their final chance is 8 a.m. to noon Monday.

Early voting levels are strong for a non-presidential year, County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Hackman said.

She said the sheriff’s race always seems to contribute to high voting percentages. The judge’s race also is driving interest in voting, Hackman said.

County Democratic Party chairwoman Priscilla Scalf also called the early voting results encouraging. She said she hopes results from the primaries spur more Democrats to become candidates for the general election, as unfilled ballot spots can be filled through a party caucus.

“Right now we have government made up almost entirely of Republicans,” Scalf said.

If residents have concerns about representation being out of balance, “people should step up and say they are running,” she said.

Scalf said some potential Democratic candidates are waiting to see what happens in the races for sheriff, judge and state representative before committing to run.

Voters like early option

Some county residents who voted early this year said they like the convenience the option offers.

Larry and Lynn Detwiler, of Hartsville, said that in the 2012 election, a presidential year, they had long waits at their precinct — an hour for him and two-and-a-half hours for her.

They wanted to avoid that this year, and were able to do that by voting Friday at about noon, walking from their downtown workplace.

James Hanson, of Hope, said he voted early at the courthouse last time because he wasn’t sure of his precinct. He found that experience easy, so he stopped in at the courthouse about 11:30 a.m. Friday to vote early again.

Steve and Vicki Robertson, who live near Clifford, arrived at the courthouse shortly before it closed at 5 p.m. Thursday. They voted early because on Election Day, they plan to distribute literature supporting a local candidate.

Both said they always vote.

“That is one freedom I helped fight for,” said Steve Robertson, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1976.

He said the sheriff’s race was one of the big ones because of the number of candidates and issues in the county, such as drugs and thefts in rural areas, that are a “touch-and-go situation.”

Vicki Robertson said she pretty much knew who to vote for, but said the three-way judge’s race was the most difficult one for her to decide.

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