Monroe County Lags On Counting Absentee Ballots

As of midday Thursday, the only county in Indiana that had not posted any results to the Secretary of State’s website was Monroe County.

Monroe County election officials say there is nothing unusual about the fact it is taken two extra days to count the absentee ballots from Tuesday’s election. Officials blame state law for the slowdown, but other counties show it may be the process that’s at fault.

In Monroe County, absentee ballots are processed using what is called a central count, meaning all early and by-mail votes are processed by hand in a single location after the polls close. It is a very safe process, but also a very slow one. Volunteers were still counting absentee tallies Thursday, almost 48 hours after polls closed.

Monroe County Elections Supervisor Ruth Hickman says the county uses the central county to help verify the voters’ identities.

“You have to reconcile that the ballot matches the application, that they really are eligible to vote, is this the correct person,” she says.

But Indiana has a voter ID law and forces even early voters to prove and verify by a signature their identities when they cast their ballots. So checking those again only verifies something the county should already know.

In Gibson County, which also buys its voting machines from the same company Monroe County does, the count is split up by precinct, which speeds the process.

Clerk Becky Woodburn says on the morning of Election Day, bipartisan teams of election officials deliver pre-sorted sets of envelopes containing absentee votes to the precincts in which those voters live and smaller numbers of ballots are counted in various of locations.

“What we normally suggest they do: do them as you’re not so busy,” she says. “That’s why we take them when we do. We suggest you don’t do it at noon, you don’t do it at four o’clock, you don’t do it at your busy times.”

This year marks the second straight Monroe County’s vote has taken at least two extra days to complete.

As of mid-day Thursday, the only county in Indiana which had not posted any results to the Secretary of State’s website was Monroe.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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