Calls for more early voting satellite locations in Marion County

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday, frustrated voters walked out of Krannert Park on the west side of Indianapolis. Some stood in line for five hours to cast a ballot, and several of those hours were in the rain.

Thoughtful volunteers were passing out chips, granola bars and fruit for free to help voters get through the line.

Other Marion County residents had similar experiences over the weekend. Wait times sometimes ranged from four to eight hours on Saturday.

Common Cause Indiana is now calling for more satellite early voting locations in Marion County.

On Saturday, five satellite locations were opened for early voting. Residents could also cast a ballot at the City-County building.

“Now that we have an election year where lots of people want to participate, clearly they have not put in enough resources in the community,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana.

Common Cause Indiana believes wait times could have been worse if they had not joined with the Indianapolis NAACP to sue the Marion County Election Board.

The lawsuit claimed Marion County’s failure to establish early voting centers effectively disenfranchised voters in densely populated urban areas. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker noted that Marion County had multiple early voting sites in 2008 and 2009. However, those sites were discontinued in later elections.

Back then, the City-County Building downtown was the only place you could vote early. During the 2016 election, long lines greeted voters who wanted to cast their ballots in the weeks before Election Day. Voters also had to travel to downtown Indianapolis instead of a location that may have been more convenient, which proved to be a burden on some residents.

In 2018, Judge Barker ordered the county to add satellite locations.

“The number is the result of an agreement between the Marion County Election Board, and that is sort of the tricky thing in all of this. You have to get Republicans and Democrats to agree,” said Vaughn.

Common Cause Indiana said Indianapolis is stuck with its five satellite locations this year since early voting has already begun. Vaughn thinks the county should add more early voting sites for the next election.

“We have got to do better in Marion County, and I hope this experience will spur our election administrators to do better next time,” she said.

Voters admit they would wait hours in line to cast a ballot. This presidential election is that important to them.

Still, some would like to see more early voting sites.

“I think that would be good. People will be more encouraged to vote when they know they don’t have to endure a two, three, four-hour line.” said Stan Clos.

Over the weekend, election officials said people showing up an hour before these sites opened led to the long lines. We reached out to the Marion County Clerk’s Office multiple times on Monday to get their thoughts on adding more sites and potential plans to reduce wait times. We have not heard back yet.

Click here to see an estimate on how long voting lines are at polling locations in Marion County.

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