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The Journal Gazette

  • Jeanne Nicolet, inspector for the voting station at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in St. Joseph Township, uses a Poll Pad to make sure all early votes have been recorded to ensure that no one votes twice. (Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette)

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jeanne Nicolet swears in Caroline Kinzer, right, Republican judge, and Amy Eisom, left, Democratic judge, Monday evening before setting up the polling booths for today’s elections.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018 1:00 am

Election Preview

County sees doubling in early voting

To see if satellites lure new voters

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Allen County Election Board officials hope early voting has increased turnout for today's primary election, but similar past elections have only elicited about 20 percent turnout among registered voters. 

“Early voting went well,” Beth Dlug, director of elections, said Monday. “We had a 100 percent increase over 2014, which was the last election of the same type.” 

Voters will take to the polls today for a primary election that will determine who will advance to the Nov. 6 general election. Allen County Republicans will choose among three candidates for U.S. Senate: Jasper businessman Mike Braun, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita.

Voters in Allen County will also choose between two potential replacements for outgoing County Commissioner Linda Bloom, who represents the commissioners' 3rd District. Republican candidates in that race are businessman Rich Beck and Chris Spurr, a Navy veteran and Realtor.

There are also two Republicans seeking the District 2 seat at the County Council table – incumbent Councilman Tom Harris and 22-year-old newcomer Brian Motley. Three Republicans are vying for the District 3 County Council seat: incumbent Councilman Joel Benz, who is finishing his first term; Frank Talarico III, a pastor at First Assembly of God; and Dave Augenstein, a medical device representative for MedTronic. 

Primary elections typically have lower voter turnout than general elections and midterm elections usually draw fewer voters than general elections. That was demonstrated during Allen County's last midterm primary in May 2014. That election drew a dismal 12 percent of registered Allen County voters. That year, Marion County had just 8 percent of registered voters visit the polls. Only 6 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in Vanderburgh County in 2014 as well. 

But the 2018 midterm will be a good case study in whether early voting and satellite voting actually help bring people who normally wouldn't vote to the polls, Dlug said. 

The goal, Dlug said, is to figure out whether satellite voting simply makes voting more convenient for those who already planned to vote or if the program actually helps bring new voters to the polls. 

Heading into today's election, Dlug said the number of early voters across the board has more than doubled from 2014. That year, 2,271 people voted early. By the time early voting ended this week, 4,550 Allen County residents had voted, Dlug said. Of those who voted early, 2,764 voted at the Rousseau Centre in the 30 days voting was available there. About 1,786 voted early over the four days the satellite locations were open, Dlug said. 

The 2018 primary also saw satellite voting locations successfully moved to larger locations. 

Changing the satellite locations cleared up problems with long lines that occurred during previous elections, Dlug said.

In October, the Election Board decided to move satellite voting from the Dupont, Hessen Cassel, Georgetown and Aboite branches of the Allen County Public Library. 

The sites were moved to Manchester University's Fort Wayne campus on Diebold Road; the Public Safety Academy/Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne South Campus, on Patriot Crossing; the Ivy Tech Community College campus on North Anthony Boulevard; and the Indiana Wesleyan University campus on West Jefferson Boulevard.

dgong@jg.net