Voters who want to cast their ballots early in this year’s primary election will have fewer options on where and when to vote.
Two early-voting sites that had been open during the 2012 presidential election were eliminated. In addition, the centers will be open for three days instead of five.
But new polling sites will be set up for one day at each of the county’s three large retirement communities to give seniors who live there better access to early voting.
The changes were made because election board members expect a low turnout for this year’s primary election because voters will not be casting ballots for the presidential nominees.
In 2012, the first year the county used vote centers, about 25 percent of voters cast ballots in the primary election through early voting at one of eight centers or at 19 vote centers on Election Day. But only about 3,600 of the more than 23,000 ballots were cast early at the eight vote centers that were open before the election.
This year, when voters cast ballots in contested races including a county judge, county council member and township trustees, six vote centers will open for early voting and 21 will be open on Election Day.
During the first year the county used vote centers, which allow voters to cast ballots at any location in the county instead of only within their home precinct, officials set up enough centers with the hope that voters wouldn’t have to wait in long lines and would have multiple locations near their home or work.
But with a lower turnout expected this year, the county can reduce the number of vote centers to save money while still offering enough options for voters. The county will save about $7,800 by not having to pay as many poll workers to run early-voting sites.
If you voted at the White River Township Trustee’s Office or Turning Point Church in northern Franklin before Election Day in 2012, you’ll have to find a new location. Neither site had a large turnout in 2012, and other polling places are located nearby, which is why election officials chose to eliminate them. The county also considered discontinuing a site at the Edinburgh Public Library, which had fewer than 50 voters some days before the primary two years ago but decided to keep it because otherwise voters in the southern part of the county would have to travel miles to Franklin or Trafalgar to vote early.
Vote centers will be open before the election for fewer days because of the lower expected turnout. In 2012, more voters showed up later in the week as Election Day grew closer, which is why board members decided to offer early voting on Wednesday through Friday, instead of all week.
The county also added one day each at the county’s large retirement centers to better serve their residents. Any voter will be able to cast ballots at the retirement centers when the polling sites are open, although the main goal is to better serve the residents and workers.
The county chose not to locate vote centers at Greenwood Village South, Indiana Masonic Home or Franklin United Methodist Community in 2012 because none of the sites had enough available parking. During the election, that meant seniors — who typically vote at higher rates than any other age group — were forced to ride to a nearby polling site or vote using a mail-in paper ballot.
Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said the county had more mail-in ballots, which take additional time for staff to collect, verify and count.
And for voters who went to vote, each retirement community would pack a bus with residents and arrive at a vote center. Those busloads of voters overloaded the polls, and other voters ended up waiting in line when they stopped in to cast ballots on their lunch break or quickly after work, she said.