Indiana Daily Student

Short lines, masked workers, anxiety: Here’s what Election Day looked like in Monroe County

Many signs are posted Nov. 3 outside of the empty Faith Lutheran Church on Election Day. Many polling places in Bloomington had much shorter or no wait times on Election Day.
Many signs are posted Nov. 3 outside of the empty Faith Lutheran Church on Election Day. Many polling places in Bloomington had much shorter or no wait times on Election Day.

Bloomington and Monroe County were relatively quiet this Election Day. Lines were generally short. Polling places closed on time. No major disruptions were reported.

During the 12 hours polls were open in Indiana on Election Day, the Indiana Daily Student sent reporters out to some of the 28 polling locations in Monroe County and around IU's campus. Here's what they saw.

6 a.m.

Evangelical Community Church

A slew of election signs greeted passersby, encouraging votes for judges, presidents and parties. For around 20 citizens who lined up in front of the Evangelical Community Church early Tuesday morning, it was time to vote. 

“I always get up early to vote,” Betty Jones, 81, said.

She said she has not missed voting since she turned 18.

The church opened for voting at 6 a.m. and had voters queuing up in coats and masks even before doors unlocked. It was still dark outside. 

“Like five minutes before the poll opens we had 22 people waiting in line,” Brittany Hubbard, said an election sheriff.

By 6:45 a.m., the line dissipated.

Inside the building, tape marked proper social distancing, and poll workers directed voters from behind plexiglass. 

Face shields, masks and hand sanitizer were used to ensure a clean environment as well, Hubbard said.

Many voters came early to fit the ballot into their schedule, recognizing the importance of the election. 

“This is the worst four-year term I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Matthew Andrews, a City of Bloomington firefighter.

6 a.m.

Indiana Memorial Union

A voter fills out paperwork at the check-in spot Nov. 3 at the Indiana Memorial Union. Polls opened at 6 a.m. in Indiana. Ethan Levy

Krystena Davis, 18, was speed walking to the Indiana Memorial Union from Wright Quad at 7 a.m. 

She meant to wake up earlier to avoid waiting a long time to vote but inevitably turned her alarm off and — to her panic — woke back up at 6:50 a.m. She checked her phone and saw GroupMe messages from people saying there were a lot of people waiting. 

"I don’t want it to be a long line. I don’t want a long line. It’s cold outside," Davis thought as she put on her pastel pink sweatshirt with the words “YOU MATTER” embroidered on the front and dashed over to the IMU. 

As she walked, she thought about how she was scared to vote by herself. But those fears dissolved when she walked into the IMU. 

“Are you here to vote?” volunteers asked over the chatter of other IMU staff.

Members of the Political and Civic Engagement program offered her Kit Kats, Luna Bars, beef jerky, muffins and cheese and peanut butter crackers. Even the other voters standing in the booths next to her as she filled out her ballot made her feel less alone. 

Davis said earlier this year she had wondered if she should vote because as a Black woman she feels like she is constantly overlooked and that in the past, politicians have made empty promises to her community. However, she decided to vote because her friends reminded her that together they had the potential to make a change, especially in racial issues such as systemic racism that she experiences the effects of every day. 

“My vote does very much so count this year,” Davis said. 

11 a.m

Unitarian Universalist Church

Addie Crider a student at Jackson Creek Middle School in Bloomington was out campaigning. “We need to pay attention to what we might face in the next few years,” Crider said. Ethan Levy

Shelli Yoder, candidate for Indiana State Senate in District 40 and Geoff Bradley, candidate for Circuit Court Judge in the 10th Circuit of Monroe County, stood outside Unitarian Universalist Church with their campaign signs at 11 a.m.

Bradley said the Unitarian Universalist Church was the fourth location he had campaigned at Tuesday. He started at University Elementary School polling location at 6 a.m.

Voters went in and out of the building at a slow but steady pace, briefly chatting with the candidates and other campaigners. Voters said they were grateful for the lack of a line allowing them to vote quickly and efficiently.

“Good morning, thank you for voting this morning,” one campaigner said as a voter left the church.

A dad and his son spent time outside the church on the playground and kicking a dodgeball back and forth as voters smiled and waved while walking out of the church.

Cathi Crabtree, a volunteer for 866 Our Vote, a nonpartisan election protection organization, was outside the church making sure voters weren’t having trouble. Crabtree said during her training she was told to be aware there are many new poll workers and volunteers with less experience.

“Historically, a lot of people who run the polls are retired and elderly people,” she said. “And everyone was afraid to do it because of COVID.”

11:50 a.m.

Arlington Heights Elementary School

This was 19-year-old Andrew Mitchell’s first election. He woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got to the polling location at Arlington Heights Elementary School. He cast his ballot at 6:20 a.m. Arlington Heights Elementary School is where Mitchell went to school when he was younger. Now, it’s the place he cast his first ballot.

After voting, Mitchell returned at 11 a.m. to volunteer for the Judge Judith Benckart campaign. Next to him stood Diana McGovern, 77, who voted at the Universalist Unitarian Church this morning. She wore a neon yellow shirt that said, “Vote for Jim Allen.”

“I have a personal stake in this election,” she said, pointing at her shirt. “Jim Allen’s my son-in-law.”

The two volunteers, separated by 58 years in age, stood amid dozens of colorful signs displaying the names of candidates. Like the signs, the two volunteers were making a last effort to persuade voters to vote for their candidates. 

Since wait times had been low, there was no line outside of the building. The sun beamed down on them as they waited for any voter to walk past, their small talk filling the otherwise quiet area.

“It’s a beautiful day,” McGovern said, “And a perfect day to get out the vote.”

1 p.m.

Bloomington Free Methodist Church

Voting signs stand in the front lawn Nov. 3 at the Free Methodist Church in Bloomington. Monroe County residents were able to place their ballots on Election Day at various polling locations. Alex Deryn

Teri Halsted was raised by Mississippi white supremacists, she said. But Tuesday, she voted for Biden.

Halsted, 59, said she had to commit to unlearning a lot of what her parents taught her. But once she got a library card and went to college, that was that.

She hasn’t voted for a Republican since her first presidential election in 1980 where she cast her ballot for Reagan. She “ugly cried for days” when Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

Standing outside the Bloomington Free Methodist Church on South Lincoln Street around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Halsted said she was voting to protect those who don’t have the same privileges she enjoys as a white woman. She’s worried about losing her health care through the Affordable Care Act and women losing their right to privacy, but she knows others have more at stake.

Halsted was a probation officer in Florida for 20 years but now worries about cops interacting with her son, who suffers from mental health issues. One of her friends in Mississippi recently died of COVID-19. He didn’t believe in wearing masks.

Tuesday afternoon, Halsted felt like she might throw up. She figured the feeling would last “until something’s decided.”

Kaitlin Doucette, 31, had never worked an election before Tuesday. But her late grandmother always worked the polls, she said, and the thought of her directing voters during a pandemic inspired the third year Ph.D. graduate student — whose field of study is viruses — to get out there.

As Doucette headed back inside the church after a quick break for some fresh air, an elderly man approached from the parking lot, newspaper rolled up and stuffed in his back pocket.

“Do I have to wear this thing?” he asked, twisting a surgical mask in his hands.

When two poll workers told him it was strongly encouraged for everyone’s safety but not required, he laughed and fastened the straps behind his ears.

3 p.m.

Ellettsville Christian Church 

Brothers Brandon, 19, and Stone Walker, 18, stand Nov. 3 outside Ellettsville Christian Church. It was the first time either of them had ever voted. Ally Melnik

The poll location at Ellettsville Christian Church was quiet on Election Day, tucked away in the back of a neighborhood.

Voters got out of their cars, trickled into the poll and then filed back to their cars. 

Except for the Walker family. They lingered outside of the church to take a family selfie with their voting stickers. This was the first time the parents could vote with their sons Stone, 18, and Brandon, 19.

“Put your sticker on,” the mom told Brandon. 

Stone and Brandon, both students at Indiana State University, drove over from Terre Haute, Indiana, to vote with their parents. Their mom and dad beamed with pride as they walked out of the church.

3:45 p.m.

Summit Elementary School

Just before 4 p.m. at Summit Elementary School, election officials estimated more than 1,000 ballots had been cast.

The school sits tucked back in a neighborhood where Bloomingtonians walked their dogs and watched their children ride around on tricycles Tuesday afternoon. Just up the road, voters scribbled in bubbles to determine what America’s next four years would look like.

Lines were longest at the school earlier in the morning, when officials said the wait time was at most 45 minutes. By afternoon, you could walk in and out without any trouble. Some voters spent less than 10 minutes inside.

Gym equipment and chairs were stacked and pushed up against the side of the school’s gymnasium to make room for tables where voters could fill out their ballots. 

Walking out after voting to reelect President Donald Trump, Bloomington resident Mary Ann, who did not give a last name, said the foundation of the nation was at stake for her.

“I don’t want socialism,” she explained. 

The 58-year-old said Trump has done a lot for jobs and taxes, but the main thing that got her out to the polls was the fact that the president doesn’t believe in abortion and neither does she.

Mary Ann wasn’t nervous about what the results of the race might be. This election season wasn’t nerve-wracking for her.

“I have faith in the Lord,” she said. “I’m putting it all in God’s hands.”

4 p.m.

University Elementary School

Campaigners stand outside the polling site at University Elementary School on Election Day in Bloomington, Indiana. Anna Brown

On one side of the driveway a sign read, “Fed up? Vote Republican!” On the other side stood a “Biden-Harris” sign.

One yard sign right by the entrance gave an election protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. But voters said they didn’t run into any issues, and most didn’t have to wait in line at all.

At 4 p.m., there were few voters in sight, and campaigners gradually began leaving the school.

Patricia Lopez, a county clerk campaigning for Kara Krothe, said she was confident in Krothe winning a judge seat on the Monroe Circuit Court but nervous about the presidential election. An immigrant from Brazil who has lived in Bloomington for 28 years, Lopez said she remembered her friends not making an effort to vote in the 2016 election out of complacency about a Democratic victory. That memory still scares her.

Lopez said she was less confident than her friends in 2016 because she had seen prejudice in Bloomington all her life – not just against the Latinx community but against anyone different.

“I knew better,” she said.

4 p.m.

Fairview Elementary School

If Mary Beth Hannah-Hansen wasn’t playing flute, it would’ve been quiet outside Fairview Elementary School on Election Day.

She wanted to play to entertain people waiting in line to vote but there was no line at Fairview in the afternoon. She played anyway. 

Hannah-Hansen sat under a tree near the doors to the polls. She played a mixture of classical music and dance tunes as a few people trickled in and out of the school.

Hannah-Hansen saw a photo of a man in the Herald-Times a few weeks ago playing music for early voters. She signed up for the organization he was a part of, Play for the Vote, because she liked the idea of playing for voters.

5:30 p.m.

Indiana Memorial Union

Just before the heavy oak doors of the polling location at Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union closed, signs were collected and poll workers called out the closing of voting at 6 p.m., sophomore John Brock, 21, had just made it inside Alumni Hall to vote in the most important election of his lifetime. 

“Hear ye, hear ye, the polls are now closed,” one poll worker said while Brock cast his ballot inside. 

Brock is from Evansville, Indiana, and had just arrived back in Bloomington to vote. He’s registered to vote in Monroe County, not Vanderburgh County where Evansville is located. He had spent the weekend with his parents, but he didn’t want to vote as an absentee. 

So he skipped class to cast his first presidential ballot. 

“I feel pretty uncomfortable where I live and the state of the nation,” Brock said. 

While Brock was inside, poll workers began to clean up the signs outside the main doors of the IMU, and put leftover snacks in the lobby into white cardboard boxes. Tables outside Alumni Hall were dismantled 10 minutes before the poll closed because there was no line during the final 30 minutes of voting. 

Students who entered the IMU did not have to wait to vote. They were in and out in five minutes. One poll worker said there was a line of a few dozen people when the poll opened at 6 a.m., but it dropped off after 8 a.m. Because it was mostly students voting at the IMU, turnout was low since many students don’t vote in Bloomington and instead in their hometowns. 

“Unless a bunch of people come at the last minute, it’s been a pretty chill day,” a poll worker said. 

6 p.m.

Bloomington High School South

A Carl Lamb sign sits in the trunk of a truck in the parking lot Nov. 3 at Bloomington High School South. Monroe County residents were able to place their ballots on Election Day at various polling locations. Alex Deryn

As dusk fell on Bloomington, 50-year-old Matthew McGee made his way out of the Bloomington High School South polling place. He said he usually votes, especially in midterm and general elections. but stakes felt much higher in this election.

He voted in hopes of preventing the “world from ending” and because he wanted Trump out of office.

“I think there’s a lot of corruption that’s begun at the top and has filtered out to the entire executive branch,” McGee said.

Jennifer Crossley, Monroe County Democratic Party chair, got into her car after a long day of visiting all 28 polling places. She said she wanted to make sure everyone who showed up to vote could.

“It’s been a lot today,” she said. “Everyone needs a rest. And maybe something good will come tomorrow.”

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