Indiana is seeing a surge in early voting when compared with the midterm elections in 2014.
As of Thursday, more than 292,000 residents had either cast a ballot at early voting centers or through the mail, according to data from the Secretary of State's office. That's more than twice the roughly 137,000 early ballots that were cast by the same time in October 2014. It's about 48,000 less than the roughly 341,000 early ballots cast by the same date in 2016, but that was a presidential election year, which attracts higher voter turnouts.
"Candidates and issues drive voters to the polls," said Valerie Warycha, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office.
Early voting numbers do not necessarily reflect increased voter turnout, said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue Fort Wayne.
"What a lot of literature shows is that people who are voting early are people who would have voted anyway. They're simply taking advantage of the convenience," Downs told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne.
In Marion County, a total of 1,309 voters cast a ballot during the first three days of early voting last week, according to Marion County Clerk's Office Deputy Director Russell Hollis. That’s nearly triple the amount of early voting during the same time period in 2014 for the last midterm election.
In the past, researchers would have looked at mailed absentee ballots as an indicator of whether voter turnout would be higher in a particular election, Downs said. But with the advent of early voting and new technologies, it's harder to predict Election Day turnout.
"I would contend that campaigns are more conscious and more active in trying to get early voting generally, which might mean a mailed ballot for some folks," Downs said.
Early voting began Oct. 10 in Indiana, but not all early voting sites have opened in some counties. Six satellite early voting sites in Marion County, the state's most populous county, will not open until Friday. Early voting ends on Nov. 5, the day before the election.