State prepares ballot count after record early turnout

The Associated Press/Report for America

INDIANAPOLIS — County election offices around Indiana are gearing up to count the flood of early ballots as the final votes are being cast in this year’s election.

More than 1.7 million voters have cast ballots by mail or in-person at an early voting location as of Monday morning, according to the Indiana secretary of state’s office, which oversees state election policy. More than 560,000 mail-in ballots were requested by the Oct. 22 deadline, although not all have been returned to county election offices yet.

In the 2020 primary election, a total of 640,225 Indiana residents voted absentee in-person or by-mail. In 2016, during the entire period of absentee voting for both in-person and by-mail, 977,239 ballots were submitted.

Indiana's record turnout follows a national trend of voters looking to avoid possibly crowded Election Day polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic or wanting to make sure there’s no doubt about getting their ballot in.

Besides the Donald Trump-Joe Biden presidential race, Indiana voters are deciding whether Republicans will continue their political dominance of the state.

But with the sheer volume of early votes, election officials say it could take more than one day to tally them all, possibly delaying determination of some winners.

Hamilton County just north of Indianapolis will start counting ballots at 8 a.m. Tuesday, said county clerk Kathy Kreag Williams: “I’m anticipating it won't be until late Wednesday afternoon before we get done. We just have so many absentees to get through."

In Marion County, the state's largest, teams will begin processing early ballots by 10 a.m., said Russell Hollis, deputy director of the Marion County Clerk’s Office. As a result, key races are not expected be decided on Election Night.

“The only prediction I have is that we're looking at multiple days. It's going to take us until Thursday or Friday until everything is counted,” Hollis said.

Early voting ended Monday at noon local time. Mail-in ballots must arrive in county election offices by noon Tuesday to be counted after a federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit from a voting-rights group to extend that deadline.

The last chance to vote will be at in-person voting sites that are open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. local time Tuesday.

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