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Madison County voters wait in long lines through fields, fairgrounds after polls close

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. (WISH) — An apparent argument over whether to convert Madison County to voting centers instead of precinct balloting has led to long lines and possibly left the county commissioners with some explaining to do.

The results:

  • Voters at the Madison County Fairgrounds in Alexandria were in a line about 800 feet long at 6 p.m., when polling places in central Indiana were to close. A candidate in the 5th Congressional District, Victoria Spartz, met up with the voters in line at 6 p.m. to urge them to continue to wait to cast ballots.
  • Shortly before 7 p.m., voters were in lines so long outside the Adams Markleville Fire Protection Territory station near Marklesville that voters had to wait in line in a harvest soybean field. The fire department decided to set up its trucks’ lights so voters would be safe in the long line.

Voters in line in Alexandria were told about 5:30 p.m. that it could be up to five hours before they could vote. However, the final voter who got in line before 6 p.m. entered the polling place shortly after 9:30 p.m.

The voting location at the fairgrounds hosted nine precincts but had only two voting machines.

Some people were coming to the aid of those in line, providing water and, in some cases, coats to those who had not anticipated a long wait during the unseasonably warm weather Tuesday. Some people also were giving hand warmers to voters waiting in line.

Similar reports were coming from other precincts in Florida Station, Ingalls and Lapel and Anderson in Madison County.

Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt replied to an email request from News 8 with this statement:

“There are several locations with lines still and we are doing the best that we can.

“To make a long story short, we purchased a smaller number of machines last year because we were supposed to become a vote center county this year, the commissioners pulled the rug out from under us in the 11th hour of that process before the primary, and we were left scrambling. We then tried to purchase more equipment because we knew that turnout would be high in the fall and we were publicly threatened with a lawsuit and were told that the machines would not be paid for (commissioners must approve all claims).

‘When I spoke with the State in the spring about this, they told us that if we didn’t get either vote centers or more machines, we would have some of the longest wait times in the state. I relayed this information to the commissioners and they still refused to approve either option that we had presented to them. 

“So we now have very angry voters (and rightfully so) that we are doing everything in our power to help. We have even deployed teams to take paper ballots out to the locations to help get the lines moving a little bit quicker.”

Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt

Attempts to reach county commissioners Kelly Gaskill, Mike Phipps and John Richwine by email were not immediately successful Tuesday night.