Early voting begins locally

GREENFIELD — Dwight Kemerly came to the Hancock County Courthouse on Tuesday morning with a plan. Wanting to rid Washington of what he called “establishment” politicians, the Greenfield resident knew his vote for the Republican presidential candidate would go to Donald Trump.

And he wanted to make sure that vote was tallied early, he said.

Kemerly was one of the first to pull a ballot Tuesday at the Hancock County Courthouse as the early voting window for the 2016 presidential primary opened. He was one of 91 county residents to cast their votes Tuesday ahead of the May 3 primary. That number is up from 31 during the 2012 presidential election and 14 in 2008.

The county had approximately 54,000 registered voters Tuesday. The period to register to vote in the primary closed Monday, and approximately 1,000 additional registrations are pending, said selection deputy and voter registration administrator Robin Spille.

The office has been busy processing paperwork and taking calls from voters with questions about early voting and registrations, Spille said.

Hundreds more voters are expected to cast early ballots in coming weeks as early voting continues at the courthouse through May 2; four additional early voting sites are set to open on or after April 23.

In 2012, about 700 voters cast ballots ahead of Election Day, compared with 2008, when about 460 residents voted early.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore expects to see higher numbers this year because the Republican presidential nominee is still undecided, meaning Indiana’s late primary could still prove influential in deciding which presidential candidates will appear on the November ballot.

In addition to choosing a presidential candidate for the November election, Hoosier voters also will vote for a number of state and local offices.

In Hancock County, four of the five offices up for grabs this year have contested primary elections, including an 11-person race for three at-large county council seats.

Kemerly said he’s been visiting the courthouse regularly for the last few years to cast his ballot ahead of the scheduled Election Day. It’s much more convenient, he said.

Poll workers say that’s the sentiment they hear from most residents who choose to vote early. Voters are usually looking to avoid the long lines and waiting that typically accompany the rush to the polls on Election Day, they say.

And without big crowds in the way, poll workers get more time to interact with voters, answer any questions and lend a hand to those who might be voting for the first time, poll worker Kathy Oden said.

Early voting takes place on the first floor of the Hancock County Courthouse. Voters will be issued their ballots near the south entrance of the building before being directed to a designated voting area to check the boxes for their desired candidates.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.