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Vote totals’ delay linked to security, 49% turnout

November 8, 2018

As results from the Allen County Election Board trickled in even into early Wednesday morning, some onlookers, candidates and party leaders were left wondering what took so long. 

Final preliminary results from Tuesday’s midterm election were posted to the Election Board’s website about 12:15 a.m. and did not initially include voter turnout percentages for Allen County. Periodic election updates were posted online at 8:15 p.m. and were updated roughly every 45 minutes until about 10:25 p.m. Final results were posted close to two hours later. 

The reason it appeared to take longer than some expected was because of new security features that affect how quickly votes can be counted and processed, Beth Dlug, Allen County director of elections said Wednesday. 

“We also had over 8,000 mailed ballots to count, which always takes longer than the early and precinct machine votes,” Dlug said. 

Also, voter turnout was exceptionally high in Allen County, according to documents provided by the election board. Preliminary results show 49.12 percent of registered voters cast ballots. That’s on par with surrounding counties, which boasted turnout figures ranging from 49.5 percent to 60.36 percent. 

For comparison, election board documents show about 29 percent of registered Allen County voters cast ballots in the last midterm election in 2014. 

“If we’re grading relative to other years, we got a really high grade,” said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue Fort Wayne. “Normally, if it’s in the 30s we accept that, but this is nearly 50 percent. That is very good turnout; not presidential level but quite good for a Midterm.” 

Allen County’s voter turnout numbers are similar to those in other counties with major urban centers. Marion County reported 40.5 percent, while Vanderburgh and St. Joseph counties reported 51.04 percent and 48.61 percent turnout, respectively. 

But as much as Downs said he’d like to believe that 50 percent voter turnout is the new normal, history shows the opposite is more likely. Tuesday’s election likely drew more voters than normal because the races were exciting, Downs said.

The question moving forward, he added, will be whether those who participated in the process for the first time : either by voting or volunteering for a campaign or running for election for the first time : will continue to be engaged.

It’s possible that some of the 2018 enthusiasm could transfer to the upcoming municipal elections next year, Downs said. 

“When you think about the things we do experience on a daily basis, local elections should matter more to people. They’re about potholes, police officers and garbage collection,” Downs said. “But those issues are not particularly exciting issues. They’re not particularly partisan or easily labeled as partisan and there isn’t as much ... media for local races as there is for congressional races.” 

dgong@jg.net

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