FINAL DEBATE MONDAY
The final event in the Daily Reporter/Hancock County Public Library debate series will be at 6 p.m. Monday. The debate will feature the candidates for Hancock County Council: Republicans Debbie Bledsoe, Kent Fisk and Marc Huber and Democrat Earl Smith. The debate will be at the library, 900 W. McKenzie Road. All of the debates can be viewed at www.greenfield reporter.com.
GREENFIELD — And they thought the 2008 presidential election was busy.
The Hancock County Courthouse is gaining more early voters every day, and poll workers are hustling. With the courthouse open special hours today and next Saturday, election administrators are bracing for even larger crowds.
As of about 1 p.m. Friday, 2,519 of Hancock County’s 50,000 registered voters had cast an early ballot at the courthouse. That’s up from 1,897 ballots at the same time four years ago.
Also Friday, 3,339 mail-in absentee ballots had been collected. Four years ago at this time, that number was 2,598.
The trend in Hancock County is being repeated around the state, as more voters head to the polls early. The convenience is testing poll workers, but it’s also altering the strategies of the campaigns, which now must treat every day as an election day the last month of the season.
“Be patient. We are here processing and doing it as quickly as we can,” said Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore, as a line of about 15 people stood to cast a ballot. “I think they’re going to wait a lot less here than at the precincts (on Election Day).”
Convenience was the No. 1 reason given for voting early. Voting on a day off from work is easier than coming in early or after a hard workday, some said. Others plan to be out of town on Election Day.
“I was pleasantly pleased,” Anthony Enoch said of the line on the ground floor of the courthouse. He said he thought the line would be longer.
The wait is about 10 to 15 minutes, and election officials say they haven’t heard complaints so far.
Even while there are still 11 days until Election Day, voters were adamant in insisting they were ready to make their decisions.
“If somebody said (something) at the last minute to change something, you’re not looking at the whole person,” said Enoch, a McCordsville resident.
While Enoch didn’t want to say which presidential candidate was his favorite, the McCordsville resident said he was ready to vote for the Mt. Vernon tax referendum.
“We’ve got to support the schools. We have no option,” he said. “That’s a no-brainer in my mind.”
The courthouse is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and next Saturday for early voting. On weekdays, early voting is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kathy Oden and Vicki Doss, absentee ballot administrators, say foot traffic has been picking up daily since early voting began Oct. 8.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign stressed early voting, and the trend has been picking up ever since.
Also in 2008, county election workers didn’t predict a wave of voters. Oden remembers arriving early the Saturday before Election Day four years ago to find a line of people on courthouse lawn. More than 700 people stood in line two hours that day to cast ballots.
This year, the courthouse is set up differently to accommodate voters. There are 13 voting stations on the ground floor and eight spots upstairs.
Doss said the Saturday crowds are mostly people who can’t make it during the workweek, including parents with schoolchildren and senior citizens who need the help of friends and family members who can’t assist during the week because they work.
The presidential race was on the minds of most voters Friday, even though there are more than a dozen state, county and school board seats on the ballot.
Amy and Jeff Cherry enjoy voting together, but with Jeff’s farming schedule, it’s hard to do it on Election Day.
Amy says a vote for Republican Mitt Romney for president was an obvious choice.
“I’m not happy with the last four years, and I like what Romney has to offer and what he says and his values,” she said.
Josh and Sarah Brown were more focused on the presidential race than the local county and school board races. The Browns are moving to Italy Monday for mission work; Sarah recently stepped down from the Fortville Town Council for the move.
They said even though they will be out of the country, voting was important to them before they leave.
“There’s no way we would change our mind,” Sarah Brown said about their vote for Romney. “We wanted to vote for Ron Paul.”
They said a vote for Romney is more like a vote against Barack Obama.
But while there is still campaigning to do for the neck-and-neck presidential race, local candidates are wondering whether voters are taking their races seriously. Early voting began two days before the first debates for local offices took place, and the last debate, among the candidates for county council, isn’t until Monday. Also, a meet-the-candidates night featuring the field in the closely contested Mt. Vernon School Board races is Monday night as well – after several hundred people will have queued up to vote today.
“I hope people wait to hear everything that has to be said to make their decisions, because a lot can happen in two weeks,” said Republican council candidate Marc Huber. “Folks are going to do what they’re going to do. I’m kind of surprised so many people have made their mind up already.”
Democrat Earl Smith said while early voting is convenient, he also hopes that undecided voters will take the time to consider him.
“I think there are a lot of people who are just looking at it as an extra convenience,” Smith said. “At this stage in the game, I figure a lot of the early voters that were in earlier in the month are probably voting straight-ticket one way or another because that’s what they’re going to do anyway.”
►An expanded letters column offers opinions about candidates in local races. Opinion, Page A4
►As Obama envisions a new term, Romney steps up his attacks on the president’s record. Page A5
►Richard Mourdock, still trying to move past his controversial debate remark, adds Gov. Mitch Daniels to a campaign ad. Page A5
Beginning in September, the Daily Reporter invited nearly three dozen candidates for office to sit down for short video profiles to introduce themselves to voters. They talked about their backgrounds, their families and some of the things that have shaped their thoughts about public service. You can watch these videos by logging on to www.greenfieldreporter.com.