Former NAPA building gets Comcast internet connection as in-person early voting looms

An Xfinity service truck heads north on Walnut at 3rd Street on Feb. 2, 2022 after exiting from the former NAPA parking lot, which is out of the frame to the right. The downtown transit center is visible in the left of the photo.

Last Thursday (Jan. 27), Monroe County’s election board voted to make the former NAPA building at the corner of 3rd and Walnut streets the location of early in-person voting for 2022 elections.

On Wednesday morning, the three-member board of county commissioners voted to approve a contract with Comcast for the needed internet connectivity, to make it possible to run elections out of the currently vacant building.

According to the background information in the meeting information packet, the initial fee is $119.95 with a monthly recurring fee of $190 for 1G/35 Mbps service. Continue reading “Former NAPA building gets Comcast internet connection as in-person early voting looms”

Election board: Former NAPA building to be used for early, in-person voting in Monroe County

In 2022, Monroe County’s in-person early voting will take place at the former NAPA building on the southwest corner of 3rd and Walnut streets in downtown Bloomington. That’s for the the primary and general elections alike.

There’s still a chance that some early in-person ballots could also be cast at Election Central, in the old Johnson Hardware building at 7th and Madison streets. But that will depend on recruitment of enough election workers to staff both locations.

The use of the NAPA building as an in-person early voting location was approved by a unanimous vote of the county’s three-person election board at its Thursday session.

For the final two weeks of the four-week early voting period, Election Central could be added as an in-person location, but only if an adequate number of election workers can be recruited.

Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler called on potential poll workers to step up. Some past workers are now in their upper 80s or over 90 years old, she said. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheeler does not feel comfortable asking them to work this year.

For basic background on pay and election worker requirements, the county election division has set up a webpage: web page for poll workers. The contact phone number for potential election workers is 812-349-2690. Email messages can be sent to election [at] co.monroe.in.us Continue reading “Election board: Former NAPA building to be used for early, in-person voting in Monroe County”

Election division physical space needs: County officials meet again this week, open house scheduled

On the Wednesday morning regular meeting agenda of the Monroe County commissioners is a resolution that will establish a committee to handle the review of voting precincts and districts in light of the 2020 US Census results.

As significant as that action is, it’s not the main election news for this week in Monroe County.

On Wednesday (Sept. 1), the county commissioners will hear from county clerk Nicole Browne for the fourth time in as many weeks on the topic of space needs for the election division. The elections division is currently housed on the first floor of the old Johnson Hardware building at Madison and 7th streets. The building is known as Election Central.

Browne has told commissioners that space requirements for year-round election work and early voting point to allocation of the whole building to elections. That includes the second floor, which is currently home to the county’s probation department.

At each of the Aug. 18 and Aug. 25 regular meetings of the commissioners, at least half dozen people, all with a fair amount of community clout, spoke in support of Browne’s request. Among them were two clerks from other Indiana counties. Continue reading “Election division physical space needs: County officials meet again this week, open house scheduled”

Early voting in Monroe County wraps up with nearly 23K ballots marked, a few hundred snacks munched

At noon on Monday morning, the line of early in-person voters at Election Central in downtown Bloomington still wrapped three-quarters of the way around the block.

Standing near the line, on Rogers Street just north of 6th Street, next to a cooler with snacks and bottled water, was Lisa McCune.

She’s known as the “snack lady” to the regular crew of candidates and their supporters who’ve been standing holding their signs at the corner of 7th and Madison streets through the four weeks of early voting. Early voting ended at noon on Monday.

McCune said the inspiration for distributing snacks came when she cast her own ballot and she was waiting in line to vote near Rogers and 6th streets, about the same spot where she had her cooler set up on Monday: “I was standing right about here a couple weeks ago. And I said, I got a headache. I wish I’d brought a water. I wish I’d brought a snack. Everybody in this line is probably thinking the same thing.”

So off McCune went to Sam’s Club. And she returned on the following days to distribute her bits of cheer to voters.

McCune told The Square Beacon she’d lived in Bloomington “forever”—which means she arrived here from Mishawaka in 1972 and earned a degree in linguistics and Spanish at Indiana University.

On the final day of early in-person voting, 719 people cast their ballots. That was a low for a daily total over the four week period, but that was because voting ended at noon. That meant just four hours of voting on Monday. Measured by through-put, the 180 voters per hour on Monday was the maximum achieved on any day during early voting.

Monday’s tally brought the total of in-person early votes to 22,881. Added to the 13,843 absentee ballots that had been received by the start of the day on Monday, that makes 35,794 confirmed early votes, with another 1,100 mail-in ballots still outstanding. Continue reading “Early voting in Monroe County wraps up with nearly 23K ballots marked, a few hundred snacks munched”

Halloween early in-person voter tally: 1,149 Monroe County residents, 1 pink pig

Saturday was a milestone for Indiana University student Bayasa Batsaikhan, who’s studying for a masters degree in information systems.

BSB: Is this your first time voting?

Batsaikhan: It actually is.

BSB: First time ever?

Batsaikhan: Ever.

Batsaikhan cast her first ballot ever on Saturday at Election Central in downtown Bloomington at 7th and Madison streets, where she stood in line with a couple hundred other people. That meant waiting times as long as an hour and a half to two hours.

On Saturday, 1,150 people voted early in person, bringing the total to 22,062. Just four more hours of early voting are left—on Monday, from 8 a.m. to noon. Tuesday, Nov. 3, is Election Day.

It wasn’t hard to spot Batsaikhan standing in line. She was wearing an inflatable pig costume. “I had to bring Halloween to the voting polls,” she said. Continue reading “Halloween early in-person voter tally: 1,149 Monroe County residents, 1 pink pig”

Election board adds 5 more hours for early voting in Monroe County: “Our voters need to vote.”

The line at early voting in Monroe County, Indiana at Election Central (7th and Madison) on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The time for early in-person voting in Monroe County has been extended on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 29, 30) by one extra hour—until 7 p.m. Early voting on those days will start the same time as previously scheduled, which is 8 a.m.

On Saturday (Oct. 31), an hour has been added to the start of the day and two hours tacked on to the end, to make for a 10-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The county has one in-person early voting site, at 7th and Madison streets, aka Election Central, in downtown Bloomington.

The extra time was added by the three-member county election board in a unanimous vote taken at its Monday morning meeting.

The board was reacting to the long lines that have persisted at the one early voting site in the county, since early voting started three weeks ago.

On Saturday (Oct. 24), the line started off wrapped around the whole block from 7th and Madison streets, south to 6th Street, west on 6th to Rogers Street, north on Rogers to 7th, and back to Madison. The waiting time to vote has in some cases approached two hours and has consistently ranged between an hour to an hour and a half.

The election board is made up of Carolyn VandeWiele, the Democratic Party’s representative, Hal Turner, the Republican Party’s representative, and the county clerk, who is Nicole Browne, a Democrat. Continue reading “Election board adds 5 more hours for early voting in Monroe County: “Our voters need to vote.””

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. Continue reading “Week 1 of early voting in Monroe County in the books: 3,662 in-person ballots cast”

Long lines but sunny start to early voting in Monroe County

Tuesday morning, Oct. 6, saw a long line of voters in downtown Bloomington.

It stretched south down the block from Election Central, at the corner of 7th and Madison, around the corner where the former La Vie en Rose Cafe stands, west along 6th Street, nearly to Rogers Street.

Tuesday was the first day of early voting in Monroe County for the Nov. 3 general election.

Around 8 a.m., when voters could first start casting their ballots, the temperature was hovering a smidgen over 40 F degrees. But by early afternoon, clear, sunny skies helped the mercury break 70 F.

At 8:45 a.m. The Square Beacon counted 105 people in line to vote. Among the prospective voters, The Square Beacon did not spot any without a face covering, as a precaution against spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus. Voters emerging from Election Central mid-morning said they had stood in line around an hour.

An hour is about how long it took the The Square Beacon to cast a ballot, after joining the line on 6th Street just before noon. The Square Beacon’s time inside the polls was clocked at 16 minutes and 44 seconds. Continue reading “Long lines but sunny start to early voting in Monroe County”

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.

cropped 2020-05-23 election central voter parking IMG_0653
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. Continue reading “Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday”

Monroe County gets masks, sanitizer from state for election workers as more than 4.3K people have already voted by mail

Secretary of state Connie Lawson said on Friday that the state received the personal protection equipment (PPE) that it had ordered for election workers, using $7.5 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act  funding.

National Guard troops had started delivering masks, sanitizer, gloves and microfiber towels to all 92 counties the previous day, and were continuing  deliveries “as I speak,” Lawson said.

Lawson said that her office had tapped Indiana sources of PPE who did not supply PPE to medical providers—to make sure her office was not depriving health care workers of needed equipment. Lawson made her remarks during Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s regular press conference on Friday.

Monroe County’s election supervisor Karen Wheeler confirmed to the Square Beacon Friday afternoon that the National Guard had dropped off two pallets of PPE material earlier that morning.  The pallets were not completely full, but had lots of the equipment, she said. She called it “rather impressive.” Continue reading “Monroe County gets masks, sanitizer from state for election workers as more than 4.3K people have already voted by mail”