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Indiana Daily Student

Long lines to vote at Monroe County's only early voting location lead to extended hours

<p>Early voters wait in line Oct. 6 at 401 W. Seventh St. Early voting hours have been extended in response to long lines at the polls.</p>

Early voters wait in line Oct. 6 at 401 W. Seventh St. Early voting hours have been extended in response to long lines at the polls.

Following hours long waits at the early voting polls, Monroe County voters will now have more time to get their vote in before election day, but still only one polling location.

Without additional employees and funding, the election board decided not to open an additional location, Monroe County Clerk Nicole Browne said in an email to the IDS..

“It takes planning, money and extra personnel, when we are already strained due to the pandemic,” Browne said. “With less than one week until Election Day, the best compromise was to extend the hours as we did.”

Browne believes the lines were as long as they were on Saturday because voters misunderstood what time the polls opened. She said many tried to vote beginning at 8 a.m. as opposed to the scheduled time at 9 a.m.

To help with increased voter turnout, the Monroe County election board unanimously voted to extend the hours at the Monroe County Election Central, 401 W. 7th St., Suite 100. The voting period on Thursday and Friday will be extended by an hour to 7 p.m. and on Saturday by two hours to 6 p.m. Polls are also opening an hour early on Halloween at 8 a.m.

Marc Haggerty, a Bloomington resident, has seen long lines down the block every time he has passed the Election Center these last several weeks. 

“The lines are two to three blocks long everyday, with the sun and the rain and the cold,” Haggerty said. “Essential workers cannot take advantage of that early voting because they have to work.”

Haggerty was also at Election Central on Saturday and felt that the line was not representative of the county’s population and that many people he knows cite the long lines as a reason they could not vote.

Nicholas Almendares, associate professor at the Maurer School of Law, said there is little evidence that long lines at the polls would categorize as voter suppression if election officials are not deliberately disenfranchising voters. This would apply to Election Day as well. Outside poll taxes and protecting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Almendares said there are very few federal regulations on voting.

Almendares said there is very little a court could do to combat long lines to vote especially so close to the election.

“The judicial protections of voting outside of Jim Crow South are very minimal,” Almendares said. “It’s very difficult for courts to do anything about it.” 

Regardless, voters like Haggerty are frustrated nothing else can be done a week out from Election Day.

“I’m slightly stunned that we can go two weeks with lines like this and they can’t even think about opening up a second place or making a bigger place making sure that people can vote more quickly,” Haggerty said.

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