Early voting rises across Indiana as GOP gets on board

The number of Hoosiers voting ahead of Election Day is rising across Indiana in part because of an effort by Republicans to urge their supporters to get to the polls.

The number of people voting at election boards before Nov. 6 is up around the state. Marion County officials reported Monday that the number of early voters has jumped by half so far when compared with 2008. In Allen County, the number voting in person has almost doubled from the same period in 2008.

"What we've heard is there's lots of push by candidates and the local parties to do early voting, and people are also more aware of the convenience," said Beth Dlug, director of the Allen County Board of Elections. If anything, the Democratic and Republican parties both learned lessons from President Barack Obama's efforts across the state in 2008, which produced a surprise victory for him.

"There was a more concerted effort from the Democratic Party, than there was on the Republican Party, last time. I think that they're both doing it this time," Dlug said.

The presidential contest may look like a clear win for Republican Mitt Romney in Indiana, but Democrats and Republicans are still battling over an open governor's seat and an open U.S. Senate seat.

The Indiana Republican Party has set up 12 coordinated campaign "victory" center and made more than 1.2 million calls, spokesman Pete Seat said.

"All of the campaigns are working in concert recruiting volunteers and talking to voters," Seat said. "To date we've had a record number of volunteers make a record number of voter contacts – easily surpassing what we had achieved at this same point in 2010."

Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker touted his party's efforts, as well.

"Our volunteers have made more than 1 million calls from more than two dozen office across Indiana identifying voters and encouraging early and absentee by mail voting as well as voting on Election Day," Parker said Monday.

Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana, chalked the increase from 2008 up to two factors: voters knowing they have more convenience to vote and campaigns realizing their efforts need to be sustained over much longer periods than ever before.

Every voter "banked" before the election ends is another voter candidates don't have to worry about, he said.

"Smart campaigns recognize election day is 29 days long," Downs said.

Downs expects the number of early voters to increase steadily as more campaigns realize they can do things such as bus voters to one location, rather than find their individual precincts, like they would have to on Election Day.

A coalition led by the NAACP and the Ten Point Coalition is rallying African-American churchgoers to flock to Marion County's early voting location on both Sundays before Election Day.

As of Monday, 4.5 million voters were registered in Indiana, roughly the same amount as in 2008.

Lines were somewhat long Monday at the Indianapolis City-County Building in Indianapolis, but moved fast. Elections Clerk Beth White says she's holding extended voting hours up until Election Day. She noted it's easier for families to vote together during early voting and said college students often take advantage of the flexibility.

Wendy and Paul Zienin, 63 and 69, of Indianapolis, said they were voting Monday, because they planned to be out of town on Election Day, visiting family in Tennessee. Kyana Jackson, 39, of Indianapolis, brought her cousin, Eric Demmons, 20, of Indianapolis, to vote in his first election.

Mary Massey, 52 of Indianapolis, said she was voting with her daughter, Kristin, who is on fall break from Saint Louis University. Kristin Massey, 20, said she probably would not have voted without the early voting in Indiana.

"I think a lot of people are doing that because we met two other people in line who were on fall break," Kristin Massey said. "It's just more convenient for us. Even if we go to school in Indiana we can't always get to Indianapolis on Election Day, because of class."

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