ELECTION NIGHT UPDATES:
12:07 a.m. Nov. 9: Record turnout, but not by much.
It’s been a record-setting election, but not by a large margin.
In Brown County, 63.51 percent of registered voters cast ballots — only 1 percent higher than the 2012 general election.
- 2016 primary election turnout: 47.97 percent
- 2010 general election turnout: 52.41 percent
- 2008 general election turnout (presidential year): 62.85 percent. This beat the previous record of 74.4 percent turnout set in 1992.
9:20 p.m. No party.
Not a lot of celebrating was happening at Brown County Democratic Party headquarters tonight.
The Democrats had posted giant pieces of paper on a partition at the Seasons Conference Center with spaces for vote totals.
Totals were never filled in.
Vote counters kept track of the results coming in from precincts on a laptop computer, but did not transfer the totals to the wall for the room to see.
With absentee vote totals still not accounted for, David Harden was the only Democrat in Brown County to win a race. He ran for surveyor unopposed.
8:45 p.m. Absentees still absent.
Absentee voter turnout was so high, it’s taking the computer at the courthouse a long time to count all the votes.
The Brown County Democrat’s Keith Fleener, stationed at the courthouse, reports that the county clerk’s office is skipping the absentee vote breakdown report it usually provides around this time in the night and is moving on to the overall vote total report.
This means we won’t know the results from absentee votes until all vote totals are announced — and those votes are so numerous, they could affect the outcome of some races.
More than 3,000 Brown Countians voted early — 1,000-plus more than during the 2012 election.
ELECTION DAY UPDATES:
6 a.m. Polls open.
Brown County is voting. Polls opened at 6 a.m. You’ve got until 6 p.m. to cast your ballot.
9:37 a.m. Up early at New Life.
WASHINGTON TWP — Sandy Higgins, who is working the polls at Washington 3, said the biggest rush of voters so far came between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., and it has been steady since, with a few periodic rushes.
At times, voters have had to wait in line after signing in, she said.
During primary voting, Washington 3, which votes at New Life, had the highest turnout of any Brown County precinct, with 56.9 percent of registered voters voting.
Outside this morning, a few candidate supporters greeted voters.
Pamela Griffin, an electioneer for the Republican Party at Washington 3, said most people don’t seem to want to stop and talk on their way in to vote, though they have been friendly and wishing her a good morning.
Griffin, from Marion County, said she and her husband voted this morning before coming down to Brown County to stump for Judy Swift, a friend who’s running for Brown County recorder. The couple attempted to do early voting in Marion County on three separate occasions over the past weeks, but could not get in due to the length of the line.
Diana Wright, an electioneer for the Democratic Party, said she had been at Washington 3 since 5:45 a.m., and that the movement of voters had seemed steady the entire time. People have been friendly, but focused on getting in to vote, she said. However, she has had friends stop back by to talk on their way out.
Wright, who voted earlier in her own precinct elsewhere in the county, said that she didn’t have any problem with lines.
10:25 a.m. Helmsburg hopping.
Before polls opened at 6 a.m., 30 to 40 people were standing in line at Helmsburg Elementary, waiting their turn to cast a vote.
Helmsburg is the only combined polling location in Brown County, the voting site for Jackson 3 and Jackson 4 precincts.
By 10 a.m., the line had dwindled to 16 people at Jackson 3, and Jackson 4 voters had only about five people waiting in line, with all three voting machines busy.
Jackson 4 Inspector Kathy Smith said turnout has been “awesome” overall. Countywide, 4,832 Brown Countians had voted as of 10 a.m., or 37 percent of registered voters, she said, reading a text message from Brown County Clerk Brenda Woods.
Among the folks lined up at 6 a.m. at Helmsburg Elementary was a Purdue University student who had to be in class at 8:30 a.m.; he came home to vote in person, said Jackson 3 Inspector Nancy Hinshaw.
Smith said six or seven first-time voters, young people, also were in line at opening time, and older voters who rarely vote have been showing up, too.
“We’re seeing people vote who haven’t traditionally voted before,” she said.
The first time Bob Vollmer voted in a presidential election, he voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Vollmer, 99, was in line this morning at Helmsburg to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
He considers himself an independent — like his father before him — but decided to support Trump because “he’s qualified, he’s forceful, and he can handle tough stuff. I like somebody who’s not afraid to talk,” Vollmer said.
Hinshaw advised voters to come in early to the polls if they can. She predicts the big rush will be between 5 and 6 p.m. when people get off work.
11 a.m. Showing support.
Outside Helmsburg Elementary School, current Brown County Recorder Sandy Cain was using her day off from work to stump for Democrat recorder candidate Rhonda Hardin Kelp.
Cain said Kelp broke her leg on Thursday and she’s unable to get around very well to the polls on her own.
Cain had already been to Washington 1 at North Salem United Methodist Church and Washington 4 at the County Office Building, and she said there had been a line outside North Salem all morning.
Does Cain think that electioneering, the displaying of signs or other shows of support outside polls, can sway voters one way or the other?
Cain said people appear to have their minds already made up by the time they go to vote, but she’s there to show support, not to change minds.
11:55 a.m. Catching on.
Election officials at Sprunica Elementary School are used to having about an hour’s lull on Election Day, but that break hasn’t come yet, said Jim Milnes, inspector for Hamblen 1.
Judge Debbie Guffey said 260 people had come through to vote as of about noon. That’s approximately 22 percent of voters registered in Hamblen 1, using the total from the primary election.
“It’s just been overwhelming,” Guffey said. “But I’m so glad people are getting out to vote.”
Milnes said there have been no problems with the electronic voting machines. This is the first time all Brown County voters have been required to use them, and people seem to be catching on well.
Milnes predicted vote totals will be close between Democrats and Republicans. “I really think, countywide, it could go either way,” he said.
Jolynn Grimes, working the polls at Washington 4, the County Office Building, said the line had been consistently out the door all morning. By 10 a.m., 136 people had voted at Washington 4.
Despite the long line, voter Pat Knapp said he did not wait more than 10 minutes to vote. Though he had never used the electronic voting machines before, Knapp said it all seemed to work smoothly.
At 10 a.m., Washington 3 — at New Life Community Church — had seen 145 voters. Just before noon, that number was around 215. Out of those, only around three had required assistance with voting by that point, said Sandy Higgins, who is working the polling location.
Washington 3 consistently had at least 15 voters either at the machines or waiting throughout the morning, Higgins said. She said she was glad she had brought a lot of crayons and coloring paper to keep children occupied while their parents waited and voted.
Noon: Turnout high.
As of noon, 5,580 people had voted in Brown County, said County Clerk Brenda Woods. That includes more than 3,100 absentee votes, with about 300 of those being mailed in ballots.
Workers are also already close to finishing with the absentee ballot count, she said.
The absentee vote is around 1,000 more than 2012, when the total absentee count came to 2,147, she said.
Noon: Steady it goes.
By 10 a.m., 136 people had voted at Washington 4, the County Office Building, said Jolynn Grimes. The line was consistently out the door and stretching into the hallway all morning.
At Washington 3, New Life Church, 146 voters had passed through by 10 a.m. By noon, that number was over 215.
Sandy Higgins, working the polls at Washington 3, said they had been busy all morning, with at least 15 consistently either voting or waiting to vote.
As of noon, only three voters had required any assistance with voting, Higgins said.
At Washington 4, even voters who were used to paper ballots had been reporting relative ease adjusting to the electronic voting machines, Grimes said. Several voters had said they liked having the summary screen by which to confirm their votes.
Voter Pat Knapp said that despite the line at Washington 4, he did not think he had waited more than 10 minutes. Everything seemed to be working smoothly, he said.
12:40 p.m. Keeping it civil.
Just because you’re pulling for different candidates, that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends.
Libby Kelp was electioneering for her mom, Rhonda Hardin Kelp, at the Washington 4 polling place, the County Office Building. Dawn Snider was there electioneering for her friend, Judy Swift.
Swift and Kelp are candidates for Brown County recorder.
Snider said she had enjoyed Libby Kelp’s company. Besides music — Libby Kelp had been introducing Snider to “country-rap” — the pair talked about school, boys and several other subjects to pass the time.
“She’s a pretty good kid,” Snider said.
“When I want to be,” Kelp said.
Though they may not agree on music, or who should be the next county recorder, the pair have no trouble getting along, they said.
“We’ve just been havin’ fun. What are we going to do?” Snider said.
“Sit here and glare at each other?” Libby Kelp responded.
“Why not have fun?” Snider said.
1:47 p.m. A steady stream.
About 50 people an hour have been voting in Washington 2 at Parkview Church of the Nazarene, said poll worker Mike Magner. That’s busier than normal.
However, at about 1:45, only three people stood in line, and voters were whizzing through their ballots on the electronic voting machines, opening up slots for their waiting neighbors within 5 minutes or less.
The stylus on the electronic poll book was giving some voters some trouble. Poll workers advised them to sign their names using their finger on the screen instead.
Poll worker Peggy Thompson said traffic said been steady. “Everyone decided to put in their opinions. Good for them.”
3:15 p.m. Crowds at Van Buren.
By around 2:30 p.m., 538 voters had cast their ballot in Van Buren Township, Inspector Olivia Toler said.
Toler said turnout when the polls opened was nothing like she had ever seen before. She has been working the polls since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I have never in all those years seen what we saw this morning,” she said.
The electronic voting machines had some difficulties early in the day, Toler said.
One machine got jammed when inserting the voter card and poll workers had a difficult time turning it off, she said.
Techs had to visit the site a few times to figure out voting machine issues. But by the afternoon, the machines seemed to be running smoothly, she said.
From 6 to 10:30 a.m. the line of voters was constant, sometimes going out into the Van Buren Elementary School parking lot, she said.
“It was crazy,” she said.
Toler even had to line people around the gymnasium, outside and back in this morning.
Ben Phillips, Republican precinct committeeman, and Annabelle Melton, the Democrat precinct chair for Van Buren Township, said voter turnout appeared to be higher than usual.
3:25 p.m. Getting along — or not.
In Van Buren Township, the Democrat electioneers supply the coffee and the Republican electioneers provide the donuts.
“We’re a friendly bunch out here in Van Buren Township. Democrats and Republicans get along,” said Ben Phillips, Republican precinct committeeman in Van Buren Township, outside the township’s only polling place at the elementary school.
A mix of both parties lined the “chute” outside the school, greeting voters as they went in.
Outside of the “chute,” supporters of the Van Buren Township Volunteer Fire Department were asking voters to sign a petition supporting the paying of firefighters in the township.
That matter is not on a ballot, but the group used this opportunity to reach residents of their township.
The fire department and the township advisory board have been locked in a court battle for more than a year over disputes about nonpayment of contract money by the township to the firefighters, and who is entitled to what documents and control in fire department matters.
The fire department supporters said they plan to deliver the petition to Van Buren Township Trustee Vicki Payne.
Jane Donaldson, a member of the fire department’s executive board, said supporters were hoping to get between 225-250 signatures. At about 2 p.m., they had 200.
Susan Showwalter estimated 85 to 90 percent of voters had signed their petition.
Outside in the “chute,” Ben Phillips, who is also on the Van Buren Township Advisory Board, called the petition a “cheap shot.” Payne was working as a polling clerk inside.
“It’s agitating,” Phillips said.
“No matter what they say or do, Judge (Judith) Stewart is going to make up her mind based on the law.”
Toler said some voters said they felt they were harassed by the petitioners and were upset. She said she heard of a few voters who went outside and took their name off the petition after finding out what the petition was about.
“I just felt it was a poor choice,” she said about conducting a petition drive at the polling place.
6:02 p.m. Waiting game.
Polls are closed. Votes are being counted. The Brown County Democrat has runners at 11 different locations who will bring totals back to our office to be posted to our election website. We’ll update that throughout the evening.
Meanwhile Republicans are gathering at the Brown County History Center and Democrats are gathering at The Seasons Lodge to watch and wait.