Saturday was a milestone for Indiana University student Bayasa Batsaikhan, who’s studying for a masters degree in information systems.
BSB: Is this your first time voting?
Batsaikhan: It actually is.
BSB: First time ever?
Batsaikhan cast her first ballot ever on Saturday at Election Central in downtown Bloomington at 7th and Madison streets, where she stood in line with a couple hundred other people. That meant waiting times as long as an hour and a half to two hours.
On Saturday, 1,150 people voted early in person, bringing the total to 22,062. Just four more hours of early voting are left—on Monday, from 8 a.m. to noon. Tuesday, Nov. 3, is Election Day.
The time for early in-person voting in Monroe County has been extended on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 29, 30) by one extra hour—until 7 p.m. Early voting on those days will start the same time as previously scheduled, which is 8 a.m.
On Saturday (Oct. 31), an hour has been added to the start of the day and two hours tacked on to the end, to make for a 10-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The county has one in-person early voting site, at 7th and Madison streets, aka Election Central, in downtown Bloomington.
The extra time was added by the three-member county election board in a unanimous vote taken at its Monday morning meeting.
The board was reacting to the long lines that have persisted at the one early voting site in the county, since early voting started three weeks ago.
On Saturday (Oct. 24), the line started off wrapped around the whole block from 7th and Madison streets, south to 6th Street, west on 6th to Rogers Street, north on Rogers to 7th, and back to Madison. The waiting time to vote has in some cases approached two hours and has consistently ranged between an hour to an hour and a half.
On Friday morning, Indiana’s four-member bi-partisan election commission voted unanimously to take Al Manns off November’s general election list of certified candidates for Monroe County circuit court judge.
Manns had filed as a Green Party write-in candidate for the Division 1 seat, after losing the Democratic Party’s June 2 primary to Geoff Bradley.
It was his loss in the Democratic Primary that led the party to challenge Manns as a certified write-in candidate, because he had failed to win the party’s nomination for that same seat in June.
For its challenge, the Democratic Party was relying on a state law commonly known as the “sore loser” law. [IC-3-8-1-5.5] The statute says that if someone loses a primary election, they’re not able to be a candidate for the same office in the next general election.
The reduced number of polling sites that Monroe County used for the June 2 primary is not a part of current planning for November voting. That’s the latest word from the county election board’s meeting last Thursday.
For the general election, the county election board is looking to use all its regular sites and maybe more, not just the seven it selected for the primary from the 34 that it typically uses.
That’s because it was only for the primary election that no-excuse absentee voting was approved by the state’s election commission this spring—during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A larger number of absentee voters means fewer people at the polls on election day.
No-excuse absentee voting is unlikely to be enacted for this year’s general election, based on Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s remarks at his press conference last Wednesday.
Screen grab of May 7, 2020 meeting of the Monroe County election board.
A mass mailing to every voter in Monroe County was due to go out at the end of this past week. That means sometime next week all voters should receive an absentee ballot application for the June 2 primary.
The mailing will also include a list of the seven polling locations that will be used for in-person voting.
Voting will be conducted during the COVID-19 public health emergency, which has been extended by Indiana’s governor Eric Holcomb.
Monroe County’s election board is preparing for the upcoming June 2 primary election by promoting the no-excuse absentee voting option that the state’s election commission has enacted just for this year’s primary.
The June 2 date is a postponement from the originally scheduled May 5 primary. Postponement of the election and no-excuse absentee voting are measures meant to help make the election safer for the voters and election workers.
Voting absentee takes a couple of steps, the first of which is for a voter to submit an application form to request a ballot.
It was no surprise. That was the expected news out of Monroe County’s election board meeting on Thursday afternoon. Hart Intercivic had indicated the delivery would come in early February.
The delivery of a semi-trailer-truck load worth of election equipment, and preliminary testing of the equipment was one of the major topics of discussion at the board’s meeting.
Another main topic was raised during public commentary by two members of the College Democrats at Indiana University Bloomington. They advocated for establishing the Indiana Memorial Union as a universal vote center, where voters from any precinct could cast a ballot.
Based on the recommendation of a seven-person committee, the three commissioners voted to direct their attorney, Jeff Cockerill, to initiate discussions on writing a contract to purchase the equipment from Hart.