Early voters get it done

Lizzy Diaz casts an early absentee vote Thursday in Goshen.

GOSHEN — Lizzy Diaz knew she’d be out of town on Election Day, but still wanted to be sure her voice would be heard.

The Goshen resident took advantage of in-person absentee voting early Thursday afternoon, in the Elkhart County Administration Building. She was joined by her mom, Rocio Diaz, who decided to take the time to vote while they were having lunch together.

They were two of the more than 1,700 people who voted at the county office or the Lincoln Center in Elkhart, at a rate of 100 or more a day on many days, since the locations opened Oct. 8. 

Somewhere in the range of 2,600 people are expected to cast early votes in person or by mail during the municipal election, said Chris Anderson, Elkhart County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

That would be a little over 5% of the 49,300 registered voters in Elkhart County. It would exceed both the 2015 municipal election absentee ballot total of 1,994 and the total during the primary this year, 2,519. 

Anderson said the two early voting locations are also open for seven hours Saturday, along with a location at First Brethren Church in Nappanee. The early voting period closes at noon on Monday.

Turnout during the primary was driven mainly by the school referendum question, in Anderson’s view. He pointed to a number of hotly contested races throughout the county this year, including the Elkhart mayoral race.

“That’s gonna be what’s driving it,” he said.

Chad Crabtree, head of the county Democratic party, agreed, saying he sees a lot of excitement among voters and doesn’t understand how any would-be voters could apathetically stay home.

He said early voting has seen a bigger push in recent years as people decide to either get it done and out of the way, or make sure that they’re able to vote without risking something like a car breakdown keeping them from the polls on Election Day. He added that it helps that Indiana no longer requires voters to state a reason when they vote absentee in-person.

Voting absentee by mail still requires a reason, according to John Frybort, a poll worker at the county offices Thursday.

The application form to vote by mail lists 12 reasons. They include a reasonable expectation that the voter will be away on Election Day, the voter is scheduled to work throughout the hours that the polls are open or the voter will have no transportation to the polls.

A poll worker for 13 years, Frybort said many of the early voters he sees are elderly. He noted that being 65 or older is one of the stated reasons for absentee voting by mail.

“A lot of them say they are going to be out of town for the election. They’re going south for the winter,” he said. “Others do it to avoid the lines on Election Day.”

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