early voters

Ann and Steve Sprunger, Lake Gage, are all smiles after voting early at the Steuben County Courthouse on Friday afternoon. It appears that 2020 will set a record for absentee voting, in part due to more mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ANGOLA — Early voting in Steuben County is on its way toward surpassing the record total for 2016 with just more than two weeks to go before election day, Nov. 3.

With a few hours left to vote on Friday, Steuben County Clerk Tangi Manahan reported 3,679 ballots had been cast by early afternoon. In 2016, the last presidential election, 3,726 people voted absentee, which was a record. It was also a record for mail-in voting at 825 ballots, which has been eclipsed this year with 1,840 mail-in ballots returned so far.

“We’ve been really busy,” Manahan said.

There have been lines in the hallway in the Steuben County Courthouse, stretching from the early voting office, about halfway along the hall, to the Magistrate Court office.

On the first day of early voting, Oct. 6, there was a line outside the courthouse with people waiting to get in before the building opened.

Even though there have been lines, Manahan said the most people have had to wait to vote has been about 15 minutes, not hours like some locales across the country.

By the end of the day Friday, in-person absentee voting will end up outpacing mail-in voting. The clerk’s office mailed out 2,192 ballots and of that, 1,840 have been returned, leaving 352 outstanding. There were 1,839 people who had cast ballots absentee in person with about three hours left to vote on Friday.

Mail-in ballots must be received by noon on election day, Nov. 3, in order to be counted. If people are worried that the U.S. Postal Service won’t deliver their ballots in time to be counted, they may drop them off in person at the courthouse, 55 S. Public Square.

Because of COVID-19, more people are choosing to vote by mail, though walk-in absentee voting will probably end up surpassing mail-in this year. The record for walk-in absentee voting was in 2016 when 2,901 people chose that option.

In 2018, just over 26% of the people who voted did so absentee. There were 12,382 people who voted that year, with 3,276 voting absentee. Turnout in that election was 54%.

There are 13 days left for people to cast absentee ballots in person.

Here are this fall’s absentee voting hours:

• Tuesday through Friday, through Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Saturdays, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m. to noon.

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