Early voting for municipal elections is getting off to a sluggish start this year in and around Indianapolis, which could be a precursor to another low-turnout election.
A week into early voting on Tuesday—and with less than three weeks until the general election on Nov. 3—just 485 people had walked into the Indianapolis City-County Building to cast their votes. A little more than 2,000 people had requested an absentee ballot by mail.
That’s less than 1 percent of an estimated 657,000 registered voters in Marion County, which has a population of about 930,000. The number of walk-in voters during the first week of early voting was also about half as much as it was during the first week of early voting in the 2011 municipal election.
Voter turnout is usually lower for municipal contests without big state or national contests on the ballot.
And a rather lackluster mayoral race—many expect the well-known and well-funded Democrat Joe Hogsett to easily beat small business owner Republican Chuck Brewer—could also be driving the low turnout for early voting.
The total turnout for the 2011 election was only about 30 percent in a relatively close race between incumbent Greg Ballard (51.3 percent of total votes) and Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy (47.1 percent). The final count of absentee ballots was about 19,000.
Still, Marion County Clerk Deputy Director Russell Hollis, is holding out some hope for this year's contest.
“There’s still time,” Hollis said. “The voters typically come out in higher numbers during the two weeks prior to the election.”
Hollis said he hopes residents take advantage of expanded Saturday and Sunday voting hours. The City-County Building at 200 E. Washington St. is open for early voting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays until the deadline at noon on Nov. 2.
There is free parking available for early voters at a surface lot near the City-County Building at 355 E. Pearl St. near the Indianapolis Heliport.
“There are people who struggle getting to the polls on Election Day because of their work schedule,” Hollis said. “This offers more convenience and flexibility for voters.”
In Hamilton County, which has elections for Fishers, Noblesville, Cicero and Arcadia offices on Nov. 3, the traffic has been even slower.
Only 100 people walked in to place ballots and 32 ballots had been cast by mail from Oct. 6 to Wednesday afternoon. The county had also received two ballots by email from overseas residents. (Early voters for local elections must go through the county to cast ballots.)
“We wish it were higher,” said Joyce Wielinski, an election clerk for Hamilton County. “It’s been slow.”
Early voting is available in the Hamilton County Clerk’s Office at 1 Hamilton County Square in Noblesville from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It will also be available from 9 am to 4 p.m. on Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, both Saturdays.