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Early lead: Advance-voting sites open across county

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More than 10,000 local voters are expected to cast ballots early this year, marking a record in Johnson County.

As of Friday, 1,764 residents had voted early by mail, and 3,134 voted in person, but deputy clerk Reagan Higdon expects the number of walk-in voters to top 10,000, or more than 10 percent of registered voters, by the end of this week.

In 2008, more than 7,700 people voted early at the Johnson County Courthouse, Higdon said. But voters have seven more locations where they can vote early this year, and county voting officials think the increase in options will bring out more voters before the election and on Election Day, as well.

“The more people that show up early to vote, it shows people are interested; and we’ll have a bigger turnout on Election Day,” Higdon said.

The additional early-voting sites were opened to make voting more convenient for residents and help cut down on lines on Election Day, she added.

Johnson County Clerk Sue Ann “Susie” Misiniec said the sites were added this year with the switch to a vote center system, which allows voters to cast their ballots at any of a handful of polling sites throughout the county. In the most recent presidential election, residents could vote early only at the courthouse.

But for the upcoming election, they’ll be able to cast their ballots at eight early-voting sites, including the courthouse, during the week before Election Day, Misiniec said.

Starting today, the seven additional sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The courthouse and two of the early-voting sites also will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

State law for vote centers says the county has to have the courthouse open for early voting 29 days before the election and at least one early-voting site open in addition to the courthouse on two Saturdays before the election.

Johnson County is opening more than the required number of sites because officials want to make voting more convenient for residents and hope to cut down on lines, Misiniec said.

With voters casting ballots for president this year, election officials expect a high turnout and are warning people they still could face lines on Election Day. But with more options, county officials expect those lines to be shorter for early voters and residents who vote on Election Day.

“During presidential elections, lines are incredibly long. If we get people to go the week before, it will balance that out. They won’t be waiting two hours on Election Day. It’s their right to vote, and we might as well help them out,” Higdon said.

To help prevent long lines, the county has added more voting machines at each vote center and has made checking in faster, she said.

“Everything’s evolved to become better to assist the voter and get them in and out of there,” Higdon said. “It’s more efficient now than it was four years ago.”

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