BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Election officials extended the closing time at polls in Monroe county by an hour yesterday. Multiple polling locations across the county ran out of ballots due to higher than expected voter turnout.
This comes as Indiana University and other schools across the Big Ten conference were competing in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, to see which school could bring out the most voters.
“The magnitude of what happened yesterday here in Monroe County and at the Indiana Memorial Union in particular is really just unprecedented," said Lisa- Marie Napoli, who is the Associate Director of Indiana University's Political and Civic Engagement program. "Everybody’s a little shell shocked if I can put it that way.”
Napoli is in charge of the challenge on campus. The polling location on campus was one of the many in Monroe County that had such a large turnout, they ran out of ballots. The location is not entirely made up of students, but has a large number of students.
"When the ballots ran out there was a pause in the line and it caused a slight discontent with the students," Napoli said. "But they were troopers, they had a great attitude.”
Napoli and other volunteers passed out pizza and snacks to the students waiting in line.
“What a terrible problem to have right," Indiana sophomore Josephine McCormick said sarcastically. "So many people are showing up to vote that it’s already exceeding the expected number of ballots.”
McCormick is the student in charge of the voting challenge on campus, and says students have a voice.
“If you look at the numbers of how many students are specifically in my college town, if we all voted we would have an enormous impact,” McCormick said.
“It just took us by surprise, how many people came out to vote,” said Monroe County Election Supervisor Karen Wheeler. "You don't expect a midterm to be even close to a presidential... and we were very close.”
Voter turnout in the county was nearly double that of the last midterm election. While that isn’t entirely because of IU students, 18-24 year olds had more voters on election day than any other age group in the county.
"That’s high," Wheeler said looking at the numbers. "That’s very high.”
It's impossible to say how many of the 18-24 year olds were IU students and the results from the Big Ten challenge won’t be finalized until next semester. However the massive lines speak volumes for the students in charge, who are just happy to see their classmates getting engaged.
"It’s especially important for young people to start voting, to start having these habits of getting engaged now, because this is the time to make habits last," McCormick said.
The Big Ten Challenge also takes into account students who register to vote by absentee ballots in their hometown.