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Courthouse ready to welcome early voters Monday

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Ready and waiting: Kathy Oden, a supervisor of the county's early voting, walks through the voting stations set up at the courthouse. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Ready and waiting: Kathy Oden, a supervisor of the county's early voting, walks through the voting stations set up at the courthouse. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Voters ready to make decisions on local, state and national races may cast ballots as early as Monday.

The Hancock County Courthouse will accept early voting starting Monday through Nov. 5. While early voting, done in person by an absentee ballot, was a significant part of turnout in the last presidential election, local officials aren’t sure whether there will be heavy crowds this year.

“I have mixed feelings about whether or not we’re going to have the large early voting that we did in the last presidential (election),” said Marcia Moore, Hancock County clerk. “I know the last presidential had about three times more people  (voting) in the fall election over the primary election as early voters. We are set up to handle it, though.”

Indeed, for this year’s primary election in the spring, officials changed the setup of the courthouse to accommodate an influx of early voters. Early voting was done on the ground floor of the courthouse, with additional space set up on the second floor for overflow.

But there were no lines in the courthouse this spring. Election officials saw a steady stream of foot traffic, which picked up in the last two weeks but never reached the point of heavy lines. The county, which is heavily Republican, was poised to play a role in the GOP presidential primary, but Mitt Romney had the nomination in hand well before May 8.

Moore says she doesn’t know what to expect this time around. In the 2008 presidential election, lines formed in Hancock County for the general election more so than in the primary.

In 2008, President Barack Obama’s campaign strongly emphasized early voting, and he carried the state. Hancock County overwhelmingly supported his Republican opponent, John McCain.

But Moore said neither Obama nor Romney are emphasizing early voting as much this year.

Regardless, the courthouse has been set up to handle a crowd. There are 13 voting stations on the ground floor plus, eight spots upstairs in case of lines, much like how it was set up in the spring.

“I just hope a lot of people come out to vote,” Moore said. “My job is to be able to process the voters, and I would like to be able to think we have a good turnout. I just haven’t felt there’s this fever that Obama brought to the race the first time.”

In addition to accepting early voting 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, the courthouse will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. the two Saturdays before Election Day, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. The deadline to cast a ballot early is noon Nov. 5.

There may be lines at the polls on Election Day this year, Moore said, but she hopes the changes to precinct lines and polling locations have alleviated problems with busy polling places.

There are nearly 50,000 registered voters in Hancock County. The deadline to register to cast a ballot in this election is Tuesday.

People may also request an absentee ballot to be sent in by mail by calling the county election office at (317) 477-1171. The application for a mail-in absentee ballot can be found at in.gov/sos/elections.

Janice Silvey, chairwoman of the Hancock County Republican Party, said she also doesn’t know what kind of turnout to expect this year. She said since the county is heavily Republican, a strong early turnout would only help Romney and the Republican candidates for state and county offices.

“Personally, I don’t think it’ll be as busy as it was (in 2008), but I hope I’ll be wrong,” Silvey said. “I hope they get out and vote.”

Michael Adkins, chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party, could not be reached for comment.

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