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Hamilton County sets record for early voting in municipal elections

Hamilton County, Indiana, sets municipal early-voting record

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Election officials on Monday said more than four times as many voters cast early ballots this election as four years ago.

Hamilton County Election Administrator Beth Sheller said by the time early voting ended at noon Monday, more than 20,000 people had cast early in-person ballots. Her office also had received more than 6,000 absentee ballots, with another 1,000 requested but not yet turned in. She said that’s a record for a municipal election, though still well below the numbers for a presidential year. For comparison, she said 4,600 people voted early in person in 2019 and another 1,000 voted absentee.

Melissa Watson and Charles Kirkman said voting early helps them ensure their votes get counted, particularly in case something comes up at the last minute. They said they were glad to hear about Hamilton County’s record turnout.

“Every vote counts, and it starts from the bottom, with the school boards, all the way up to the White House,” Watson said.

Sheller said Carmel and Fishers drove most of the early voter turnout, something for which she credits key races in the cities. Carmel is the only city in Hamilton County with a contested mayor’s race, to replace retiring longtime mayor Jim Brainard. Meanwhile, voters in the Hamilton Southeastern School Corp.’s service area, which includes Fishers, have a referendum to decide. Additionally, all but one of the city council seats in each of those two cities are contested.

November 2023 also marks the first time Hamilton County will use voting machines equipped with voter-verified paper audit trail, or VVPAT, technology. Sheller said this will give her office a chance to test the machines in a large-scale election without the pressures next year’s presidential election will bring. State law requires all counties to adopt some form of VVPAT by July 1 of next year.

“I think people will feel more confident about our machines if they can see and print what they voted, and I also think if we have recounts or anything like that, then we will be using those for our recounts,” she said.

Hamilton and Brown counties are the only two counties in the Indianapolis metropolitan area that have not implemented vote centers. Sheller said voters should check their registration ahead of time so they know which polling place to go to. In the 60 counties that have implemented vote centers, including Marion, Madison and Johnson counties, voters can cast ballots at any polling location.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. Election officials said people in line when the polls close at 6 p.m. will still be allowed to vote. Photo IDs are required. Election officials said the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be open on Election Day and to provide photo IDs for people who need them.