Elections and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government

Voters turn out in light numbers for Indiana primary

May 4, 2010

Voters turned out in light numbers at many polling sites across Indiana for Tuesday's primary, signaling what one state official said could be a shifting preference for early and absentee voting.

"We rebuilt the pyramids and recarved the Grand Canyon in our spare time," joked poll worker Dina Roberts, who saw only 147 voters in nearly 12 hours at her downtown Indianapolis polling site.

The low turnout could be due in part to the number of people who sought ballots early this year. More than 96,000 early and absentee ballots were issued statewide this year, up 35,000 from the 2006 midterm primary, said Jim Gavin, spokesman for the Indiana secretary of state's office.

"I think what you're seeing is people are moving toward absentee voting as a preference," Gavin said.

He said it was too early Tuesday evening to gauge overall voter turnout. About 19 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2006 primary, he said.

Election officials reported only minor problems.

Eight polling locations in Indianapolis did not open as planned by 6 a.m. Tuesday, said Angie Nussmeyer, a spokeswoman for Marion County's clerk. Some poll workers called in sick or failed to arrive, but all of the county's polling locations opened by 9 a.m., she said.

"Most of the issues have been standard problems with machines — inspectors not sure how to set them up, maybe setting them up in the wrong way," she said.

Delaware County Clerk Steve Craycraft in Muncie, about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis, reported a few problems at polling sites with missing forms and absent poll workers but said it had been "fairly quiet."

Tuesday's key races included the highly contested Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and the 13-way Republican contest for the 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Steve Buyer.

Eight Republicans were vying for the 8th District seat, which Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth decided to leave in order to run for U.S. Senate in November.

In the 8th District's Vanderburgh County, some voting machines arrived late and caused snags in opening polling places, county clerk Susan Kirk said. Despite the "mess" in getting machines to polling places, all machines were delivered and turnout was light, she said.

"We've just pretty well sat here and read books most of the day," Kirk said.

In northwestern Indiana's Lake County, where late returns in the 2008 presidential primary drew national attention, election director Sally LaSota reported only minor mistakes by poll workers.

Rev. Anthony L. Spanley from Holy Cross Church in Hamlet bucked the early voting trend and cast his ballot Tuesday. He said he always votes in both the primary and general elections.

"I just love the system. I can vote against them twice," Spanley said. "I try to get rid of all the people who raise my taxes."

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