Daily Reporter Staff Writer
GREENFIELD — Local voters can start casting their ballots today as early voting for this year’s municipal election kicks off and continues until primary Election Day on May 5.
The majority of the county’s registered voters may visit any of the four early vote centers now open around Hancock County. Two additional vote centers will open on Election Day.
A small portion of local voters — those who live in Cumberland — will be required to cast their votes in Marion County, which handles Cumberland elections but does not utilize vote centers.
Offering early voting and replacing traditional polling places with new voting centers are two steps election officials have taken to make voting easier and hopefully increase turnout, Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said.
In the past, Election Day was treated like a national holiday; schools were closed, and businesses often encouraged their employees to take time off work to visit the polls, Moore said.
Times have changed.
People are busier now, Moore said, but vote centers give voters flexibility to cast their ballots wherever is convenient.
Also, those casting a ballot early without having to provide a reason for not being able to vote on Election Day.
These early ballots are treated the same as absentee ballots, Moore said; they are held by the clerk’s office until Election Day, at which point they are counted with all other votes.
Hancock County saw an increase in early and absentee voting during the most recent election, said Robin Spille, Hancock County election administrator, but there is no real way to predict voter turnout. The number usually depends on the races, Spille said.
Primaries usually have lower turnout, and there is always big turnout in presidential years, she said.
Ballots will be cast at voting centers. The sites are stationed strategically around Hancock County to make them easily accessible. They replaced precincts last year and were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback during last year’s election, Moore said.
With the exception of Cumberland residents, local voters may use any voting center in the county, regardless of their address or precinct. If they have a valid state identification card, the card will be scanned, and the voter will be issued the correct ballot.
“So, if they live in Greenfield but work in McCordsville, they can visit the voting center in McCordsville to vote for the Greenfield mayor,” Moore said.
Early vote center locations are the Hancock County Courthouse, McCordsville Town Hall, Hancock County Public Library, Fortville Community Center.
Hours of operation vary but include weekend and evening times.
On Election Day, the Hancock County Fairgrounds and courthouse annex will open for voting.
Introducing voting centers allowed the county to purchase new, more efficient voting equipment while streamlining the voting process and eliminating long lines on Election Day, Moore said. Because of the money saved by using voting centers instead of precinct polling places, she was able to offer poll workers their first pay raise since 1996, she said.
Vote centers have caused a bit of confusion among voters who didn’t realize they could go to any polling place, but Spille expects that won’t be the biggest cause of frustration during the primary.
Residents are often flustered by municipal elections because not every Hancock County resident is allowed to vote. Only those living within the city limits of Greenfield or the town limits of Fortville, McCordsville or Cumberland may cast ballots next month in their respective elections, Spille said.
Anyone 18 or older, living within city or town limits and who is a U.S. citizen and a resident of Indiana is eligible to vote. Exceptions include those in prison after being convicted of a crime and those who have not lived in their current address at least 30 days.
Early and absentee voting will remain available until noon May 4. Cards listing all voting centers are being mailed to eligible voters in the municipal election. Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Election Day at each of the vote centers.
Questions about vote centers can be directed to the county clerk’s office by calling 317-477-1109, the election office by calling 317-477-1171, or visiting at hancockcoingov.org.