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Early voting period off to strong start

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Early voting got off to a strong start this week in Indiana's two largest cities as voters began casting ballots that include races for president, U.S. Senate and governor.

More voters cast early ballots Monday in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne than during the first day of early in-person voting in those cities in 2008, election officials said. Tuesday was just as busy at their offices.

Marion County Clerk Beth White said the 776 early ballots cast Monday at her office broke the previous first-day record of 679 ballots cast in 2008. On Tuesday, the office had 750 voters cast early ballots.

White said voters seemed motivated by this year's presidential race as much as they are by the races for governor and U.S. Senate.

"We know people are really interested in this election. We have an open Senate seat and an open governor's race for the first time together in a long time, and those two races are hotly contested," White said.

In 2008, 93,000 Marion county voters cast absentee ballots, with about 72,000 of those early in-person votes and most of the rest mailed in ballots, she said.

Among Tuesday's early voters in Indianapolis were city worker Jeff Dean, 47, and his 19-year-old son, Eric, who voted during a morning visit to downtown Indianapolis' Marion County Clerk's office.

It was the first presidential vote by Eric Dean, a Purdue University sophomore majoring in botany who was home in Indianapolis on fall break.

Both father and son voted for Republicans in the key races -- U.S. Rep. Mike Pence for governor, Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate and Mitt Romney for president. Jeff Dean said he had been unhappy with President Barack Obama's performance in office.

"We're headed in the wrong direction -- culturally, in foreign relations, fiscally and in domestic legislation," he said. "Just about every way I can think of, we're not headed in the right direction."

In Allen County, elections director Beth Dlug said 556 people cast early ballots Monday at the county's downtown Fort Wayne office, up from 417 early votes cast during 2008's first day of early voting.

Tuesday's tally was even higher, with 804 voters casting in-person ballots.

"We're crazy. It's just been non-stop," Dlug said. "There are a lot of people who already know what they want to do, who they want to vote for. They're coming in because they know it's convenient."

She said that in 2008, about 30,000 Allen County voters cast absentee ballots, and about 19,000 of those were cast in person.

Some Indiana counties didn't start early voting until Tuesday due to Monday's Columbus Day holiday.

Among them was Lake County, Indiana's second-most populous county, where a total of 805 people had voted by the end of the day Tuesday, said Sally LaSota, director of the county's board of elections and voter registration.

Voter registration clerk Barbara Gills said there was a long line outside the office in Crown Point -- one of six early voting centers around the county -- but not as long as on the first day of early voting in 2008.

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