Early voting

Voters cast ballots at the Noble County Courthouse on the first day of early voting, in this file photo from Oct. 6.

ALBION — More voters than ever showed up early to cast their ballots in Noble County, breaking the previous record high set back in 2016.

Whether turnout will be higher than past years or whether more voters simply shifted their habits to vote ahead of the Election Day won't be known until late tonight when all the votes are counted, but it's a promising start to the 2020 election.

Noble County Clerk Shelley Mawhorter reported that 9,552 people voted early in-person this fall and about another 2,500 mail-in ballot — almost all that were sent out — have come back.

The deadline for mail-in votes to be received is noon today, so a few more ballots may trickle in during the afternoon mail delivery. A final early voting total will be available after polls close later tonight.

Still, at approximately 12,000 ballots early, that passed the 2016 early voting total of 7,680 early votes.

Those early votes were about 44% of the total ballots cast in 2016, the highest proportion in an election ever in Noble County and a record that appears likely to fall this year unless there is a huge surge in turnout.

In 2016, there were 17,369 total ballots cast — a 56% turnout — so the early voting numbers this year already represent about 69% of the total ballots cast four years ago.

With about 30,000 eligible voters this fall, the early voting numbers have already accounted for about a 40% turnout of all eligible voters.

Early voting sites were busy this fall as voters took the opportunity to cast ballots ahead.

And although the state didn't allow no-reason absentee voting this fall like it did in the spring — voters must cite one of 11 reasons to qualify for a mail-in absentee and generalized concern about COVID-19 is not one of them — the county received a similar raw number of mail-in votes this fall.

In the spring, Noble County had 2,750 mailed ballots, which represented about 44% of all votes cast in the primary.

Although the number of mail-in votes is similar this fall, turnout will be much higher so the percentage of votes cast by mail will definitely be smaller. If 60% of voters turn out this election, the percentage of mail-in votes would be around 14% of the total.

Almost all mail-in votes are verified during the day and counted before polls close at 6 p.m. In the spring, of the 2,750 ballots received by mail, Mawhorter said only six were rejected due to issues like missing or non-matching signatures.

Vote centers are open until 6 p.m. today at the usual eight locations — Bridgeway Church in Kendallville, Crosspointe Church in Kendallville, Orange Township Fire Station in Rome City, Noble County Public Library branch in Avilla, Merriam Christian Chapel in Merriam, LaOtto Cultivate Church in LaOtto, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Albion and Stone's Hill Community Church in Ligonier.

Anyone in line by 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Anyone showing up afterward will be turned away.

After polls close, vote centers will be broken down and voting machines returned to the Noble County Courthouse in Albion for counting.

Full results are typically tallied by about 8 p.m. in Noble County and the county does expect to have all votes counted tonight.

Statewide and national results may not be totally tallied by the end of the night Tuesday.

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