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.
Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler stamps the hands of those who were in line by noon on Monday. They were allowed to vote. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
Lisa McCune delivers snacks and water to voters who were standing in line at Election Central in downtown Bloomington. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
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.
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 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.
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.
Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler minds the end of the line of early voters after 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 outside Election Central. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
A few of the choices on the ballot might give some voters paws. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
Any kind of dog can be a pointer. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
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.
Around 8:15 a.m. on Oct. 6, 2020, Ed Robertson stood at the corner of 7th and Walnut in Bloomington, Indiana directing voters to Election Central.
Election Central at 7th and Madison in Bloomington, Indiana on the first day of early voting, Oct. 6, 2020.
Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne greeted voters in line at 7th and Madison in Bloomington, Indiana on the first day of early voting, Oct. 6, 2020.
Looking west at the corner of 6th and Madison in Bloomington, Indiana. Voters are standing in line to cast their ballots at Election Central at 7th and Madison in Bloomington, Indiana on the first day of early voting, Oct. 6, 2020.
Looking north at the corner of 6th and Madison. Voters are standing in line to cast their ballots at Election Central a block north at 7th and Madison in Bloomington, Indiana on the first day of early voting, Oct. 6, 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.