Week 1 of early voting in Monroe County in the books: 3,662 in-person ballots cast

At the end of the first week of early voting in Monroe County, Indiana, the tally of ballots cast in person stood at 3,662.

With Election Central open from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. starting Tuesday, that total, averaged over 40 hours, works out to a throughput of about 92 voters per hour.

By day the totals were: Tuesday (899), Wednesday (857), Thursday (933) and Friday (973). Based on the persistent lines, those numbers are probably an indicator of the maximum pace for processing voters.

At that same pace, the 208 hours of early voting that are scheduled before the Nov. 3 election would yield around 19,000 voted ballots.

The latest figure from the county clerk’s office for the number of absentee mail-in ballots that have been requested is around 13,000.

That projects to at least 32,000 people voting before Election Day this year. That total could go higher, because vote-by-mail absentee ballots can still be requested.

That’s a few thousand more than the 25,000 in 2018 who voted early in person or absentee (by mail, out of 53,000 who cast a ballot.

It’s close to the 31,000 in 2016 who voted early in person or absentee (by mail) out of about 60,000 who voted.

For the June primary elections, about 17,500 people cast ballots by mail. A big difference between the primary and this year’s general election is the eligibility criteria for absentee voting. For the primary, the state’s election commission established no-excuse absentee voting. That decision was based on concern for voters who did not feel safe visiting the polls in person, but who did not qualify for absentee voting under the standard statutory criteria.

If 17,500 is analyzed as an upper bound on the number of mailed-in absentee ballots for the general election, that could mean maybe 36,000 people voting ahead of Nov. 3. That would be appreciably more, even if not dramatically more than in past years.

No-excuse absentee voting looks like it’s no longer even a faint possibility, given a ruling last week by the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, that upheld the lower court’s ruling that said Indiana’s absentee voter law is not unconstitutional. From the opinion: “The court recognizes the difficulties that might accompany in-per- son voting during this time. But Indiana’s absentee-voting laws are not to blame. It’s the pandemic, not the State, that might affect Plaintiffs’ determination to cast a ballot.”

In a different lawsuit, which could have an impact on the way mail-in ballots are analyzed, the district court issued a preliminary injunction that says if a mail-in ballot is postmarked on or before November 3, 2020 and received on or before November 13, 2020, then those ballots have to be counted. Indiana election law says that ballots have to be received by noon on Election Day, no matter when they are postmarked.

But a one-week stay on that preliminary injunction was issued on Oct. 6, 2020.

Early voting in Monroe County resumes at Election Central on Monday, Oct. 12 at 8 a.m. Voters who are in line at 6 p.m. can still vote even if they have not reached the polls by then. It’s the same procedure followed on Election Day.