Experts weigh in on what could have been done to shorten early voting wait times in Marion County

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Across the country, we are seeing record breaking numbers of people exercising their right to vote, even right here in central Indiana. 

Election day is less than a week away, and most states are seeing record breaking early voting turnouts. But the problem that still remains are the long lines. 

Throughout early voting, we’ve noticed one to six -hour waits at polling locations across Marion County. On Wednesday, hundreds waited for up to five hours to cast their ballot.

Experts say those in charge knew this was coming.

“It’s something that seemingly happens almost every election. And so, it seems like our state legislature should recognize this and start to provide ample opportunity for people to vote and not have to wait in line for more than an hour,” said Aaron Dusso, associate professor of political science at Indiana University.

Dusso says the state legislature and the election commission decide how much to fund and how many polling locations will open. 

“Our Indiana election officials have truly contributed to this problem by inaction and through disagreements,” said ACLU Director of Advocacy and Public Policy Katie Blair.

Blair says the Marion County Election Board only agreed on six-early voting sites. She also believes “no excuse absentee voting” should be allowed. 

“Politics definitely play a role in a lot of these laws and regulations, and it’s unfortunate that we are not putting voters and democracy ahead of our political parties,” said Blair.

Political experts say the way the laws are written also play a factor.

“Suppression happens kind of behind the scenes. It happens in the laws you pass and how you’re going run your system. It’s not the suppressional mold where you’re physically going to stop people from voting,” explained Dusso.

For example, in Indiana you’re required to register a month in advance, but other states offer same day registration. Those states have a higher turnout. Indiana also requires a photo identification. 

“Those types of things could all be considered an attempt to decrease turnout because it’s not clear what they do to make things better,” said Dusso.

The clerk’s office extended early voting hours at the City-County building until 9 p.m., but Dusso says more needs to be done.

“So, having everything open and having more of them. Having more staff, having more places to vote, there’s so much talk of running government like a business. Well, run it like a business because no business in the country would run it this way,” said Dusso.

The big question remains how long lines will be on election day. Marion County says they will have an additional 180 polling locations with 25 voting machines at each site, which is the maximum they can do to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

Marion County officials also tell us Democrats and Republican representatives of the election board spent months negotiating the number of early voting sites. This is also the most satellite voting sites Marion County has ever had. 

The election board is set to vote Friday morning to approve the Lucas Oil Stadium as an early voting location. If approved, the voting hours would be Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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