Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday

According to Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler, 17,997 absentee ballots had been sent out to voters as of Friday and 6,517 of them received by her office.

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Monroe County’s Election Central at the corner of 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington on May 23, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

When The Square Beacon touched base with Wheeler on Saturday morning, she said about 5,000 more ballots still need to be sent out. That will make about 23,000 total absentee ballots for this year’s primary election. Election day is June 2.

A lot of voters waited until close to the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline for turning in ballot applications was Thursday, May 21. The voted ballots themselves have to reach the clerk’s office by noon on primary election day, June 2. Voters who receive their ballots later next week, and are concerned that their mailed ballot might not arrive in time, can turn in their ballots in person at Election Central.

The roughly 1,300 ballots that have been processed every day for the last week is about twice the number Wheeler had previously described as the office’s maximum daily capacity. She said previously she’d be looking to recruit county employees who had been ordered to stay home from work during the COVID-19 health emergency.

On Saturday, she said about 20 people were working inside the Election Central building at 7th and  Madison streets. They’ll need to work Sunday, Monday, and probably Tuesday, too, Wheeler figured.

“It’s been intense,” Wheeler said.

At an election board meeting in late April, Bob White of B&L IT Services, who manages the county’s voting equipment, ball-parked the maximum throughput of the newly renovated space at Election Central to be around 1,000 voters a day. That would make 6,000 for the six days of early voting.

The potential 6,000 ballots cast during early voting, when added to maybe 23,000 vote-by-mail ballots, would amount to at least 29,000 non-election-day voters. About 38,000 Monroe County residents voted in the 2016 primaries. If turnout is similar this year, that would still leave about 9,000 voters casting ballots at the seven polling sites on election day. That’s an average of about 1,300 voters per polling site.

Building size was a key criterion in selecting the seven polling sites. Bloomington’s city hall, with its 4,100 square feet got the nod over Free Methodist Church, which is a 2,100-square-foot-facility.

The city hall building is open on a limited basis for city business starting this coming Tuesday, but will open just for voting on June 2. Voters can check online to confirm where they are supposed to cast their ballot in person.

The individual sealed envelopes for ballots can’t be opened until election day. That means processing ballots will likely not be done by the end of the day.

In a message to media early last week, county clerk Nicole Browne said that candidates should “not anticipate final election results on election night,” adding that “It is highly possible that (with fewer teams working to allow for social distancing), we will not have final tallies and could end up having to recess and resume counting on the following day.”

Browne’s message confirmed remarks at an early-May election board meeting about the expectation that no results will be available on election day.