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Indiana Daily Student

Monroe County Election Board may request polling hour extension on Election Day

<p>Voters wait in line to vote Oct. 6 at Election Central at 401 W. Seventh St. Voters said wait times were roughly an hour despite the long line on the first day of early voting in Indiana.</p>

Voters wait in line to vote Oct. 6 at Election Central at 401 W. Seventh St. Voters said wait times were roughly an hour despite the long line on the first day of early voting in Indiana.

Only Indiana county election officials can request their polling locations extend their voting hours beyond 6 p.m. after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Indiana election law Friday. The Monroe County Election Board may request an extension in the event of difficulties on Election Day, Monroe County Election Supervisor Karen Wheeler said.

Indiana and Kentucky are the states with the earliest polling closing time in the country, according to Ballotpedia. With an extension, polling places may stay open until longer depending on how long a voting disturbance lasts and how much time the judge grants. Polling hours are currently 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If an extension was to occur, Wheeler said the election board would try to alert voters using radio. Election updates will also be available on the Indiana Daily Student website and social media.

This decision comes during an election year projecting increased voter turnout compared to previous election years. More than 60 million early votes across the country have been cast with 33 states already beating their 2016 pre-election turnout, according to CNN. More than 1 million Hoosiers requested early ballots with about half wanting an absentee ballot, according to AP.

The law requires a unanimous vote by the county election board and can be blocked by a single member. The Monroe County Election Board currently consists of Secretary and Monroe County Clerk Nicole Browne, Republican Chair Hal Turner and Democratic member Carolyn VandeWiele. They will then have to receive a court order, according to the court documents.

In 2019, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an election law allowing only county election officials to request polling extensions meaning voters cannot request such themselves. The federal appeals court’s decision overturned the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana's ruling against the law, citing the proximity to election day.

The law has faced some backlash accusing voter suppression. Common Cause Indiana, a nonpartisan organization with multiple lawsuits with the state over election processes, said the law most affects minorities who are at-risk for long lines, equipment malfunctions and location closures, according to a U.S. News & World Report story. Indiana is the only state with a law of this kind.

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