Early in-person voting kicks off for Monroe County

The trademark blue former NAPA building at 3rd and Walnut streets, just south of the new parking garage and west of the downtown transit center, is the new home to Monroe County’s voting operations.

Tuesday was the first day of in-person early voting for the May 3 primary elections.

At 8 o’clock sharp, Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne emerged from the front door to perform the ritual that marked the start of the voting day.

Browne raised her voice to the overcast sky: “Hear ye, hear ye, the polls are now open!”

In the first half hour of voting, only a handful of voters cast a ballot. By then, light rain was falling on the few candidates and volunteers who had come to canvas the early voters.

By around 4 p.m., the count of early voters had reached just 58. For the general election in 2020, Monroe County averaged more than 1,000 early in-person voters a day. It’s not surprising that  interest in the primary elections, between presidential election years, is comparatively lower.

Browne told The B Square earlier in the morning that she’d heard from other county clerks in the state that the number of requested absentee ballots was down compared to 2020.

The layout of the parking lot for the new early voting site means that candidates don’t have easy access to voters, to engage them in conversation or hand out literature.

Under state law, no campaigning is allowed within 50 feet of the polls. That requirement pushed candidates towards the edge of the parking lot on the Walnut Street side of the building.

Voters who pulled their cars in to park directly in front of the building could head right inside, unperturbed by candidates trying to hand them literature.

County commissioner candidate Dominic Thompson adapted to the situation by grabbing his yard sign that he had placed in the lawn extension next to Walnut Street and waving the sign at prospective voters.

Thompson is a Democrat challenging incumbent Democrat Lee Jones in the primary. In November, voters will choose the next county commissioner from Democratic Party primary winner and Republican Perry Robinson, who is unopposed on the Republican Party primary ballot.

The Monroe County commissioners race is included in the candidate forum scheduled to start Tuesday night in Bloomington city council chambers at 6 p.m. It will also be live broadcast on CATS.

Two other races included in that forum will be the Indiana state house District 62 race, and the 9th District congressional race. The forum is hosted jointly by the Monroe County Democratic Black Caucus and Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus, 9th District.

Other candidates on site for the start of in-person early voting on Tuesday included two of the four Democratic Party candidates for circuit court judge: Karen Wrenbeck and Emily Salzmann.

The other two Democrats vying for that spot are April Wilson and Allison Chopra. [YouTube video of April 4, 2022 judges candidate forum]

The winner of the Democratic Party primary will face Republican Carl Lamb in the November general election.