Some Indiana Counties Closed Two-Thirds Of Their Polling Places Ahead Of Record Turnout Election Day

Mary Lyons hands out registration forms as voters line-up to cast their early votes at the City-County Building in Indianapolis. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DARRON CUMMINGS
Mary Lyons hands out registration forms as voters line-up to cast their early votes at the City-County Building in Indianapolis. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DARRON CUMMINGS

A record four million Indiana voters are expected to head to the polls today as the state takes an unexpected spotlight in a primary where candidates in both parties are fighting it out until the bitter end. The state has already seen extremely high turnout in early voting; over 50 percent more people have cast early ballots than when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went head-to-head in 2008.

Yet several factors could cause chaos at the polls on Tuesday. The state is only keeping sites open until 6 p.m., which could pose difficulties for people who cannot leave work until 5 p.m. or later. Many other states keep their polls open until at least 8 p.m. And unlike some other states, Indiana has no laws requiring employers to give their workers time off in order to vote.

Indiana also has an open primary, in which registered Independents can vote for any candidate they choose, which may lead to even higher turnout and longer lines. Some counties already had lines at the door when the polls opened at 6 a.m.

Yet despite the anticipation of long waits, some counties in Indiana have also followed Arizona’s lead in slashing the number of polling places. In Wells County, which has the highest turnout rate in the state, officials cut the number of available voting sites from 15 to five.

Though most issues are expected at the end of the day, when people try to vote after work, some problems have already popped up. A polling place in South Bend, Indiana was shut down for a little over an hour during the morning rush after police received a call about a suicidal individual nearby.

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A polling place in Marion County opened late because a poll worker couldn’t find childcare. Voting equipment glitches were reported in Rush County, Hancock County, and Johnson County.

Hancock County is also trying to sort out errors by poll workers who “got ahead of themselves and did things in the wrong order.”

Yet Chris Melody Fields with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who is fielding calls from Indiana voters, told ThinkProgress she has heard of “no systematic problems yet.”

She did caution voters, however, to not be turned away if poll workers say they don’t appear on the rolls.

“Always ask for the inactive list or supplemental poll book,” she advised. “If you haven’t voted in four years, you may have been put on one of those lists, and you can still cast a regular ballot.”

Update:

With less than an hour to go before polls started closing, the lines grew longer at several polling sites across the state:

Update:

Though Fields’ said her voting rights hotline was relatively quiet on Tuesday, many more problems surfaced across Indiana. A software glitch in Hancock County left the results of three local races up in the air after more than 2,000 ballots were found to contain errors. The error went unnoticed for four hours. Other voters arrived at their assigned polling sites to find them locked or poorly marked.

In Tippecanoe County, nearly 100 voters who were in line when the polls closed at 6 p.m. were improperly turned away. In Vigo County, about 150 Indiana State University students were also turned away, because they had listed their home address on their registration forms instead of their campus address.