ELKHART — Voters head to the polls today to decide who will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
But even before Election Day, voter turnout appeared to be high.
By the absentee voting deadline at noon Monday, 2,475 people had already voted, according to Elkhart County Clerk of the Circuit Court Christopher Anderson.
Only 993 people voted early in the 2015 primary. That included travel board, mail and in-person absentee voting.
“In person, we went from 375 to basically 1,700, which is complete craziness,” Anderson said of the difference between the two elections.
In 2015, a total of about 10 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary, which is fairly normal, according to Anderson.
This year, more than 4 percent of registered voters cast a ballot before Election Day, and if the trend continues, total turnout this year could be quite high.
Interest this year is “driven by a contested race for Elkhart mayor and contested council races on both sides of the ballot, and also by the school question,” Anderson said.
He couldn’t give numbers showing how many people have voted in specific municipalities or races, but he said Republican, Democratic and Elkhart Community Schools referendum-only ballots each accounted for about a third of the absentee ballots cast.
In Elkhart, the most visible race is between Rod Roberson, a former city councilman, and Ashley Boling Molyneaux, executive director of the Elkhart Education Foundation, who are seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor. The winner will face former mayor Dave Miller, a Republican, in the fall.
Incumbent Mayor Tim Neese, also a Republican, announced in December he would not run for re-election.
Also on the Republican side, the nomination for city clerk is also contested in Elkhart, with Ronda Bilancio and Debra Barrett seeking the party’s nomination to replace Sue Beadle, who is not running for re-election.
Every incumbent on the Elkhart City Council is seeking re-election, and four out of the nine are being challenged in their party’s primaries.
In the 1st District, incumbent Richard Shively is being challenged by fellow Republican Steve Gruber. The winner will face Democrat Gerry Roberts.
The 2nd District incumbent, Brian Thomas, is being challenged by Roger Cotterman and Kraig Grover on the Republican ticket. The winner will face Democrat Andrew Strycker.
In the 4th District, incumbent Dwight Fish, is being challenged by James “Jay” Little and former councilman Ron Troyer on the Democratic ticket.
And the 6th District incumbent, Pam Kurpgeweit, is being challenged on the Republican ticket by Rick Stauffer. The winner will face Democrat and former councilwoman Tonda Hines.
Elkhart Community School district voters will also have to decide whether to approve a property tax increase that would send more money to the school corporation.
In Goshen, the only contested race is for the Republican nomination for the 3rd District City Council seat. That race is between Felipe Merino and Matt Schrock. The winner will face Democrat Jennifer Shell.
Nappanee voters, if they choose a Republican ballot, will have four contested races Tuesday.
One is between Kathy Brown and Jeffery Knight, who are running for city clerk-treasurer.
In the 2nd District race, incumbent Anna Huff is being challenged by Edd Shepherd.
In the 4th District, Alan Duncan and Brandie Yoder are vying to replace Republican Dana Hollar.
At-large incumbent Jacob Dermott is being challenged by Denny Miller.
No Democrats have filed in the Nappanee primary election.
In Bristol, there are no contested races in the primary.
The only contested race in Wakarusa is between Republican incumbent clerk-treasurer Fred Avery and Katie Fromer.
In Millersburg, the only race is for town-clerk treasurer as well. Republican incumbent Patricia Barhydt is being challenged by Mackenzie Taylor.
The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday in all primaries in the county. A list of polling places can be found at www.elkhartcountyclerk.com/voter-info/polling-locations.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus