ALBION — With less than two weeks until Election Day, early voting is ramping up in Noble County, with additional opportunities coming up for people to cast their ballots ahead of Nov. 3.
It’s an offer people are latching on to — early voting numbers thus far are way up compared to 2016, with even more expected to come.
Early in-person voting has been available at the Noble and LaGrange county courthouses since Oct. 6, but voters will have some additional opportunities to cast ballots the next two Saturdays as well as next week, but only in Noble County.
Voting at the courthouse will continue during regular business hours next week, with courthouse voting also available on Monday, Nov. 2, but only until noon.
Both counties will have early vote sites open today and next Saturday, Oct. 31, while Noble County will also have a rotating polling site available around the county next week.
On the next two Saturdays, early voting in Noble County will be available at Bridgeway Church in Kendallville, Stone’s Hill Community Church in Ligonier and at Noble County Courthouse in Albion.
Voting will be available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the courthouse and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bridgeway and Stone’s Hill.
In LaGrange County, the LaGrange County Courthouse will be open for voting the next two Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Noble County, which uses vote centers thus allowing voters to cast their ballot at any site in the county, is also offering a rotating polling place next week. That availability will be:
Oct. 26: Merriam Christian Chapel, Merriam, 2-7 p.m.
Oct. 27: Bridgeway Church Kendallville, 2-7 p.m., Stone’s Hill Community Church, Ligonier, 2-7 p.m.
Oct. 28: Merriam Christian Chapel, Merriam, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Orange Township Fire Station, Rome City, 2-7 pm.
Oct. 29: LaOtto Cultivate Church, LaOtto, 2-7 p.m.
Oct. 30: Stone’s Hill Community Church, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
LaGrange County, which uses precinct voting requiring people to vote at an assigned site on Election Day, doesn’t offer additional voting outside of the courthouse.
Voting will remain available at the two courthouses from Monday-Friday next week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. LaGrange’s polling site closes for an hour at noon for lunch, but Noble County’s does not.
While thousands have already chosen to vote in-person, thousands are also sending in mail-in ballots to avoid public exposure this fall.
The deadline to request a mail-in ballot has now passed, but anyone who has requested and received a ballot is encouraged to return it as soon as possible.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson has advised Hoosiers to put their ballot in the mail no later than Tuesday if they want to ensure it arrives on time to be counted.
Mailed ballots must be received by the county election office by noon on Election Day in order to be counted. Any ballot arriving after point is not counted.
People can drop off their mail-in ballots in person at the county clerk’s office if they’re concerned about it arriving on time, however the Noble County Courthouse is closed on Election Day so people wanting to make an in-person drop off will have to do it by Nov. 2.
Mail-in ballots cannot be turned in at early voting sites, although a person can hand in their ballot materials and officially surrender that ballot and vote in-person instead, if they choose to go that route.
Regardless of in-person or by mail, the number of voters casting ballots early has been much larger than past election years, Noble County Clerk Shelley Mawhorter said.
In the 28 days of early voting at the courthouse in 2016, the county had 1,567 votes cast. In the two and a half weeks of early voting so far, the courthouse had voted 2,950 people as of 4 p.m. Thursday, with an entire week still left to go.
At total of 7,680 people voted early in 2016 — with 7,260 in-person votes and 420 mail-in votes — so the final surge of early voting may be coming yet this next week.
The increased courthouse numbers are on top of the county already receiving back about 2,500 mail-in ballots, with approximately 500 more that were sent out but haven’t come back yet, Mawhorter said.
That could put the mail-in vote total about the same as in the spring, when the county received 2,750 ballots by mail in the primary.
However, one difference between then and now is that the state didn’t again allow “no reason” mail-in absentee voting, effectively allowing any registered voter to vote by mail. This fall, the normal rules were back in place, requiring people to cite one of 11 reasons for not being able to vote in person, restricting it mainly to people 65 and older or people who will be at work all day or out of the county on Election Day.
Total turnout in the 2016 general election was 56% in Noble County.