HAMILTON CO., Ind.— Voting early in central Indiana in 2016 means a much longer wait than usual. In Hamilton County, a two-hour wait is the best-case scenario.
In Fishers, the line was wrapping around and through the building by 3:30 p.m., just an hour-and-a-half after the center opened. By 4 p.m., the wait was three to four hours.
The only people who waited less than three hours were those who started waiting in line before the early voting center even opened. And even they suggested arriving earlier.
“They better get in line an hour early instead of a half hour,” said Jean Barnes.
Barnes arrived at 1:30 p.m., but didn’t finish voting until 4 p.m.
“We have very long lines at all of our three locations—Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville,” said Hamilton County Election Administrator Kathy Richardson.
She and other election officials have been stunned every day by the turnout for early voting.
“I expected the same scenarios like we had in ‘08 and ’12,” said Richardson. “I did not expect that people would be willing to wait three and four hours.”
Richardson expects voters will continue to wait that long at the Carmel Library and Fishers City Hall both Friday and Saturday, the last two days to early vote at those locations.
Carmel and Fishers each only have six voting machines. Noblesville, which has the shortest line, has sixteen booths.
The wait there is still two hours.
“If we could've leased more machines, would we?” asked Richardson rhetorically. “Yes, we would've. But I think Allen County got 40 and we got 40 and that was the last amount we had. We could never have enough voting machines to cut this line down to what we'd call reasonable.”
Richardson says the only other option would have been to buy voting machines that would’ve sat without much use for several years.
Right now though, they’re getting used more than they ever have before.
On Wednesday, nearly 3,500 of Hamilton County’s registered voters cast their ballots. That blew the latest record from 2008 of 2,500 voters out of the water.
So far, 15 percent of the county's registered voters have cast their ballots. Richardson believes 65 to 70 percent total will vote or be in line by 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
That’s why she’s not surprised people are hedging their bets now to wait, to avoid doing the same on Election Day.
“I left work an hour and a half early, hoping that we wouldn't have that much of a line,” said Judi Izuka Campbell. “I'm still doing it. I left early. And I will do it. Get it done.”