GREENFIELD — Judy Muenster was on a mission.
On Wednesday, the first day of early voting, the Greenfield resident headed to the Hancock County Courthouse to cast a ballot ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Muenster recently sold her Hancock County home and is preparing to spend the winter in Florida; she wanted to vote early to ensure she got her chance to decide who will lead the country, as well as elect local officials who will hold office when she returns to Hancock County in April.
Muenster was among the 573 voters to take to the polls Wednesday to cast ballots for national, state and local races.
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That’s significantly more than the first day of voting in 2012 — the last year a presidential race was on the ballot — when 147 early voters cast ballots.
Throughout the day Wednesday, short lines formed at the Hancock County Courthouse, and a steady stream of voters visited McCordsville Town Hall for early voting.
Muenster waited a few minutes, she said, but didn’t mind.
“This is my right,” she said, holding a sticker bearing the phrase, “I Voted.”
Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore was excited by the turnout, saying she knows the more people who cast ballots early, the smoother Election Day will flow. In the spring, voters complained about long lines at vote centers, which also experienced software issues and equipment failures throughout the day.
Moore said Election Systems & Software, the county’s vendor, has resolved issues that led to delays, and county officials opted to open two additional vote centers to accommodate voters.
The best way to ensure casting a ballot goes quickly is to act early, Moore said; she is encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting hours between now and Nov. 8.
Presidential elections always bring bigger crowds of voters than local and state races, and election officials across the state are preparing for higher voter turnout, Moore said.
For example, in 2012, about 63 percent of registered voters cast ballots, compared to the 2015 mayoral election, when about 16 percent turned out.
Despite the election board planning to open two additional vote centers for this year’s election, voters shouldn’t expect the process Nov. 8 to go quickly, Moore said.
If 40,000 people cast ballots that day, an average of 1,600 — or 133 every hour — will visit each vote center, she said.
“Do not stand in line on Election Day,” she said. “Vote early or by mail. I can’t say it enough.”
Janet Cooper wanted to avoid long lines on Election Day, so she headed to the courthouse Wednesday to cast her ballot. She’s sure crowds will flock to the polls Nov. 8, packing local vote centers and creating long waits.
She doesn’t want any part of that, she said with a smile. She walks with a cane and has trouble standing for too long, she said. Coming to the courthouse Wednesday morning ensured she was out the door in under 30 minutes, she said.
Cooper brought along her husband, Bob, who also cast a ballot Wednesday.
Bob Cooper said the most important race is for president because there is currently a seat open on the United States Supreme Court. Though he listened long and hard to both Democratic and Republican candidates throughout election season, he had no trouble picking candidates when he stepped into the voting booth Wednesday.
“There were only Republicans on my ballot,” he said with a laugh.
Some who came out to vote Wednesday said they did so to put the contentious presidential race behind them. Casting a ballot a month before Election Day means they can tune out political advertisements when they flash across their TV screens about a month sooner than their friends and neighbors.
Most, however, said they voted early simply out of convenience.
Joe Merriman said he hoped to avoid the hassle voting on Election Day often creates. He’s known for about eight months that his votes, up and down the ticket, would go the Republicans. Jobs and the state of the economy drove that decision, he said.
It is legal to take a selfie in voting booths in Indiana, but local election officials are warning voters who take a quick snapshot while casting ballots to be careful.
Snapping and posting a picture of a completed ballot is against the law. Ballots are considered confidential.
Instead, Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore suggests voters post a picture of the “I Voted” stickers poll workers are passing out.
By-mail absentee ballots are now available, and voters can get an application to vote absentee online at IndianaVoters.com. Some restrictions apply. In order to be eligible to vote by mail, you must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Have a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open
- Have a disability
- Be at least 65 years of age
- Have official election duties outside of your voting precinct
- Be scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open
- Be confined due to illness or injury or caring for an individual confined due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open
- Be prevented from voting because of a religious discipline or religious holiday on Election Day
- Be a member of the military or a public safety officer
- Be a serious sex offender as described by Indiana law
- Be unavailable to vote because you don’t have transportation to the polls
Absentee voting applications must be returned to the Hancock County Clerk’s Office, 9 E. Main St., by Oct. 31.