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Grant County flocks to the polls

VOTING TIME: At right, Democratic clerk Mary Jones and inspector Nathan Meeks check in voters Tuesday at the Salvation Army building, 359 N. Bradner Ave.

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Grant County voters flooded the polls with a presidential election-like turnout this year.

Nearly 46 percent of registered voters in Grant County cast ballots, according to unofficial totals from the Grant County Clerk’s Office, compared to the 27.73 percent of registered voters who turned out for the 2014 mid-term election.

Midterm elections have historically had lower turnout than presidential elections. But this year absentee and early voting numbers in particular have soared compared to recent non-presidential elections. The 2014 general election saw just 2,629 voters cast absentee ballots compared to the 5,878 cast this year.

Grant County Clerk Carolyn Mowery said she thinks that increase is due to the growing awareness of early voting and absentee ballot availability.

The high volume of early voting and absentees caused problems for the software tabulating votes Tuesday night, according to Kathy Foy, resulting in a long wait for results as some absentee ballots had to be re-entered into the computer system.

Mowery also said the turnout was likely the strongest she’s seen for a mid-term election in her time as clerk.

Elvin Weinmann, poll inspector at First Church of the Nazarene, said turnout was “one of the highest” he’s seen in over 25 years of working the polls.

Over 50 percent of registered voters in the two precincts it serves – Center Township precincts 12 and 18 – had already voted by 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to Weinmann.

He said the long lines have not dampened spirits.

“Even though there’s been a line 25 deep, people feel like that’s a good sign … people seem grateful for the abundance of voters,” Weinmann said.

Weinmann said one man who came to the church to vote and discovered he wasn’t registered in Marion said he would drive to Fort Wayne to make sure he cast his ballot.

“It seems there’s more of an intentionality to vote (this year),” Weinmann said.

Poll inspector Nathan Meeks said they had a “steady stream” of voters at the Salvation Army polling location throughout Election Day.

“We’ve had at least 20 people in line all day,” Meeks said.

Grant County Democratic Party Chair Terry Stodghill said he’s heard from voters that healthcare and education were the big issues bringing them to the polls Tuesday.

“I think the school board (race) was a big thing … that was a big desire to get out and vote. And overall I just think people wanted change,” Stodghill said.

Turnout figures may also be affected by the total number of registered voters in Grant County being significantly lower than in the 2016 general election, although it has bounced back by about 700 voters since the primary election in May.

Currently there are 44,418 registered voters in the county, compared to 49,440 in the 2016 general election. Voter registration totals for 2016 were about on par with 2014 numbers, which listed 49,357 voters on the rolls.

According to Sharyn Sherron, first deputy for voter registration, a state voter registration maintenance program canceled registration for voters across the state who had been inactive for at least two presidential elections.