A ‘sluggish’ turnout: Voters trickling in but no lines to vote in today’s primary

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Maile Haupu plays on her tablet as her mom Rebecca votes in the primary election at the vote center inside Donner Center in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

By Andy East, Brian Blair and Mark Webber

The Republic

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Turnout in today’s primary election has been sluggish, said Bartholomew County Clerk Shari Lentz.

As of around 2:25 p.m., a total of 3,926 Bartholomew County voters had cast ballots in-person on Election Day, or about 7.4% of registered voters. An additional eight people had returned their absentee-by-mail ballots.

All vote centers in the county have been seeing a “steady stream” of voters come through, “but we’re not seeing lines anywhere,” Lentz said.

“It is low,” Lentz said of the turnout. “…It’s disappointing for sure.”

A crowded NexusPark parking lot because of a college graduation ceremony Tuesday morning may have nudged some voters from that voting center on 25th Street in Columbus to other polling places.

But voting inspectors said that there were few hurdles during primary day voting just beyond lunchtime.

Melissa Hill, inspector at the Nexus Park site and an election day veteran, mentioned that some would-be voters may have interpreted the many cars in the lot as a sign that lines to vote were long.

“We think it might have turned some people away, at least to some other places to vote,” Hill said.

Despite a parking lot that looked busy, time to cast a ballot was quick. For example, at 1 p.m., 10 people were in line to vote at the center, and most got to a machine within three to five minutes or less.

The only other adjustment at NexusPark was air-conditioning that wasn’t functioning in the voting area. A city employee quickly brought in a floor fan.

At Flintwood Wesleyan Church, the only hiccup was one of six voting machines had to be replaced early in the morning because it was not working, according to inspector Pam Hartley. But officials quickly brought in a replacement, though voter turnout was low enough that it wasn’t actually needed.

“We haven’t been very busy,” Hartley said. “It’s kind of sad.”

Precinct judge Mike Champlin theorized that, other than the governor’s race, voters might have seen most contests as lower key.

At 1:30 p.m., there was a steady trickle of voters, but no actual line or wait time.

In another part of Bartholomew County, when the doors opened at 6 a.m. at the Hope Moravian Church, only two voters were waiting to cast their ballots.

“It has been steadier than it has been in the past few primaries,” vote center official Heidi Jasper said shortly before 2 p.m. “But the turnout is similar to what it was four years ago.”

However, another poll center worker said there were a few lengthy lulls in between voters in Hope.

“There have been times when we got bored,” Susan Thayer Fye said.

For more coverage, visit therepublic.com. The website will be updated in real time as the results come in after the 6 p.m. closing of the polls.