Technology problems repaired, voting hours won’t be extended

Voting hours have ended, but voters already in line at centers across the county will be allowed to cast ballots.

That means voting could continue for an hour or more across Johnson County.

Earlier today, the Johnson County Election Board has decided not to extend voting hours this evening after they say the problem with the electronic poll books the county uses to check voters in has been fixed.

Election officials are promising a thorough review of the technological problem that caused voting to come to a standstill for hours across Johnson County on Tuesday, with voters waiting in line nearly three hours at some sites or simply walking away.

The glitch, which ES&S officials say was caused by heavy traffic across the country, started about 9 a.m. and continued into the afternoon, causing some people to wait nearly 3 hours to cast a ballot.

Election Board President Phil Barrow said election officials visited several vote centers this afternoon and the equipment and systems are working.

“We trust that they can make it back by 6,” Barrow said of the voters who had to leave without voting due to long lines.

Voters who are in line by 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote, even if the line takes hours.

As voting hours came to a close at 6 p.m., multiple vote centers reported voters still in lines that were at least an hour long.

A Franklin family, Jeff, Kelsey and Brenda Souders came out to vote together at the Franklin Parks and Recreation Center.

Kelsey Souders said they waited almost an hour but said the lines looked the same length at the other locations they drove by.

“It just seemed like there were a lot of people everywhere,” she said.

Brenda Souders mentioned their other daughter attempted to vote at two different locations this morning and during lunch, but turned back after two-hour wait times.

“She doesn’t know if she will be able to vote now,” Brenda Souders said. “She was frustrated. She was really trying.”

No technical issues have been reported, and the long lines are causing long waits. Campaigners outside the polling place told voters to go to the Franklin Parks and Recreation Center and Johnson Memorial Hospital where wait times are around 10 to 15 minutes.

The problem with voting for about five to six hours earlier in the day originated with the vendor, Election Systems & Software, which is used by nearly 3,000 jurisdictions around the nation.

“We are doing everything we can to hold them accountable. This will be studied deeply,” he said.

“What can I say except we’re sorry?”

ES&S released a statement this afternoon:

“The issue in Johnson County, Indiana has been resolved, resulting in faster check-in times for voters. Earlier in the day, the poll book, which is used to check in voters but is not related to voting machines themselves, was running slowly. The poll book operation is now significantly improved. We apologize to voters and to elections officials in Johnson County, Indiana for longer wait times than expected, and we thank everyone for their patience.

Earlier in the afternoon, county election official had considered an emergency court order to extend voting hours past 6 p.m. in Johnson County.

The system that is used to check people in before they can head to a voting machine kept freezing. When that happened, no voters could sign in to vote, which put the line at a standstill.

The problem was widespread among the 20 voting sites. The county contracts with Election Systems & Software, a Nebraska-based company, for the equipment and on-site support to keep it operating.

By late afternoon, lines of voters were moving swiftly again. Many residents who tried to vote on their lunch break were able to come back after work to cast their ballot.

Zach Stevenson of Franklin waited in line for two hours at this afternoon until he had to leave to go back to work.

When he came back to the Franklin Parks and Recreation Center, he was able to check-in, vote and leave in about 10 minutes.

Other voters reported similar wait times of 10 to 15 minutes about 4 p.m. Andrew Littleton of Franklin said he was concerned for the people who couldn’t vote when the electronic poll books weren’t functioning.

“It makes you feel like you don’t have a voice,” he said.

Bill Jones, who was taking exit polls outside, was at the vote centers when voting came to a standstill.

Jones said a handful of people walked out without voting to either go to work or another vote center.

“A lot of us who knew what was going on said, ‘Hey, just so you know, this is county-wide,’” Jones said.

Voters at Edinburgh Public Library, which rarely has long lines on Election Day, were waiting 45 minutes to an hour earlier in the day, said Jason Lawson, an Edinburgh school board candidate. Voters at centers on the north side of the county, such as Mount Pleasant and the White River Township branch of the Johnson County Public Library, are waiting 2.5 hours.

“Hopefully it’s not that long now,” said Cindy Rapp, a Johnson County Election Board member.

Heavy traffic across the country is what slowed the system down, election officials said.

Because of the delay, voters were waiting in line and machines were not being used.

The heavy turnout is also causing long lines. As of 12:15 p.m., the wait at the White River library branch was 2.5 hours, and voters were becoming upset as machines sat empty inside.

Machines sit unused at the White River library vote center as a technology problem with the electronic poll books kept election workers from being able to check in voters.
Machines sit unused at the White River library vote center as a technology problem with the electronic poll books kept election workers from being able to check in voters.

The problem was widespread and causing lines to form at the more rural vote centers, which typically don’t have lengthy, if any, waits.

At one point, the line at the Trafalgar Public Library was more than an hour long as the county’s IT professionals and technicians from Election Systems & Software, the county’s election equipment vendor, work to sort out the problem, Clerk Sue Ann Misiniec said.

“It’s not just Mount Pleasant; it’s everywhere,” Misiniec said. “It’s some sort of connectivity issue similar to the issue we had in the spring (election).”

Voters are waiting more than an hour in Trafalgar as well, which is unusual for a rural site, because only one of the two e-poll books was working, Misiniec said.

Election officials are working to sort out the problem, she said.

Here’s a look at how it is impacting the election and what else is happening at the vote centers:

The search for a place to vote

1:35 p.m., White River library

Ben Tate and Bree Finchum had gone to three different vote centers around Johnson County Tuesday morning, leaving each time they found waits exceeding an hour.

But they were finally able to cast their vote in a reasonable time on their fifth try.

The wait was only about 15 minutes by the time they got to the White River library.

“It was nuts out there. We went out and got breakfast, then came here and it was much shorter,” Tate said.

For Tate, the motivation to get out and vote was a simple one.

“Freedom,” he said. “It’s my right, absolutely 100 percent my right. Everybody should vote.”

Finchum agreed, and was closely watching the U.S. Senate race between Joe Donnelly and Mike Braun.

“Everbody should vote, and everybody should be informed when they vote,” she said.

Doing their best

1:30 p.m., White River library

At it’s worst, the line to vote at the White River library was pushing two hours. The technical problems checking voters in struck around mid-morning Tuesday and lasted past noon.

But by 1:30 p.m., poll workers had whittled that wait down.

“Everything is going much better now,” said poll inspector Heather Overton.

Technicians from the county clerk’s office had provided polling places with a way to bypass the problematic voter identification process, allowing workers to again check people quickly and take advantage of all 20 voting machines, Overton said.

Michael Wilson, a Bargersville resident, had only waited about 15 minutes when he came to the vote center. Even though he heard that lines were long all over the county this morning, he had made it a priority to vote Tuesday.

“The country has a lot of issues going on right now, and a lot of divisiveness. I think it’s important that we cast our vote to help in any way we can,” he said.

Even with the long lines, 1,252 voters had come through the White River library already, Overton said. That was unusual for a midterm election, she said.

Poll workers tried to use humor to keep the waiting voters from becoming too frustrated. They joked around, while at the same reassuring people that the problem was with the electronic poll books, not the voting machines themselves, Overton said.

“We made it clear – there was nothing wrong with their vote being counted,” she said.

U.S. Senate candidate makes campaign stop in Greenwood

1:15 p.m. Mount Pleasant Christian Church, Greenwood

U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun (R-Indiana) has arrived to greet supporters outside the church, who hold campaign signs.

Braun said from his conversation with voters, border security and the cost of healthcare are the highest priorities.

“It’s been consistent from the primary to now,” Braun said. “They’re worried that Social Security and medicare might not be there, but ironically jobs and the economy are doing so well that it’s not the most important thing. Since Democrats think they own the issue, they want to keep Obamacare which to me has been a disaster. You need to cover pre-existing conditions and have no cap on coverage but you also gotta lower costs.”

Braun said he is different than Democrat Joe Donnelly, who he calls a career politician. Braun said Democrats like Donnelly are responsible for the $19.19 trillion national debt. Braun was confident of a victory.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 months,” Braun said of his campaign. “People see I’m not the typical politician. I come from the real world and that’s why I’m gonna win, real good.”

Won’t be deterred

12:25 p.m., GracePoint Church, Whiteland

Even a wait of more than two hours wasn’t going to stop Emma Kirchmeyer from voting for the first time.

The Whiteland resident came to a vote center at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Problems with equipment at GracePoint Church had stymied the voting process, leading to lines moving at a glacial pace. But even as the wait stretched on, Kirchmeyer was determined to place her vote.

“It’s important to try now, or it’s not going to happen later,” she said. “If we didn’t do it now, who knows what the line will be like before the polls close.”

So she kept a positive attitude throughout the wait, talking to people around her and biding her time. Part of her determination in voting stemmed from a strong belief that this election could help bring about important changes in leadership that she felt the community needed.

Kirchmeyer was most interested in voting for school board and local races.

“I believe that things need to change. It’s not as great as it can be,” she said. “There are some school stuff that needs to be changed, and things community wise that we need help with as well.”

Slow, and not very steady

12:20 p.m., GracePoint Church, Whiteland

Just as it had all over the county, problems with the poll books were slowing voting to a crawl all morning in Whiteland.

The line to vote filled GracePoint Church’s main hallway, with people bunched back and forth, out the doors and across the parking lot. Wait times were pushing two hours by noon.

“We’re getting some people through, but the connection is still not real good,” said poll inspector Forrest Chambers.

Turnout was higher than in most elections, though not as much as the 2016 presidential election. But with difficulty looking up voter information and getting people checked in, the waiting was much, much greater, Chambers said.

“The lines are backed up because the machines are down. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have this much of a line,” he said.

The issue was one originating with the clerk’s office, Chambers said, so there was not much that individual polling places could do to remedy it. All they could focus on was getting as many people checked in as possible and move the line as best they could, Chambers said.

Standstill after stand-still

11:15 a.m. Mount Pleasant Christian Church, Greenwood

Bill Dummett, 37, was at the front of the line to vote when another standstill occurred.

As an attorney, he has the privilege of a flexible work schedule, which allowed him to wait in line for two hours. A voter in every election, he says the line for this election is longer than it was in 2016 for the presidential election.

“There’s a plethora of concepts I’m worried about ranging from philosophical issues, but healthcare is definitely the biggest one,” Dummett said.

The problem with the poll books didn’t surface right away when the vote centers opened at 6 a.m. Vote centers were functioning smoothly for about 3 hours, but at 9 a.m., the check in process started getting slower, eventually leading to a standstill at some vote centers, including Mount Pleasant, which is historically one of the busiest sites.

Marie Smith has been a poll inspector for 20 years, but said this is the first time she remembers having malfunctions on election day.

“It’s gotten worse and worse and we’re just at a standstill,” Smith said. “Originally it would take about 40 seconds, now we’re dead, no one is checking in.”

That standstill, at about 11 a.m., lasted about 20 minutes before the four voters at the table got their chance to vote. Five minutes and six voters later, another stoppage.

Dave Ebbeler, 69, has voted in every presidential election, but this is his first time attending a midterm vote. He was half an hour into his wait and knew it would be another hour before he would reach the front of the line, but didn’t mind the wait.

“The Kavanaugh thing bothered me more than anything,” Ebbeler said of his motivation to vote. “The caravan coming up from Mexico is another concern, the high cost of medical care.”

Try again later

10:30 a.m. Mount Pleasant Christian Church, Greenwood

Brittney Matteson was just one of many voters who did not have the time to wait in line for multiple hours. After waiting for an hour and a half, she decided that it was best to come back later in the day.

“It was an extremely long line and very slow moving,” Matteson said. “It’s the longest I ever had to wait to vote.”

Matteson said an hour into her wait, she was told the system used to check in voters was moving slowly, and was told this was a county-wide issue. Other voters parked their cars, entered the church, and exited immediately upon hearing of wait times.

What’s on the ballot

Vote centers opened across the county at 6 a.m. for voters to cast their ballots for U.S. Senator, state legislators, sheriff, school board members and more.

Some vote centers had lines from when they opened at 6 a.m., as residents tried to vote before heading to work.

As of 8 a.m., the White River Public Library had been the busiest vote center.

Shortly after 7 a.m., voters were waiting in line for 45 minutes to vote at Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin.

Before the polls opened, a line had already formed at at least one Greenwood vote center. More than 100 people were in line at The Nest Event Center at Main Street, Sheek Road and Interstate 65.

Earlier today —

Wait times vary at polling sites around Franklin

9 a.m., Johnson Memorial Hospital and Grace United Methodist Church, Franklin

Five people were in line to vote at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Johnson Memorial Hospital. Less than three miles away at Grace United Methodist Church, the line had backed up all the way to the parking lot — about 20 feet from the church entrance.

“This is as good as it’s been all morning. Earlier, (the line) was out to the elevator,” said Rick Nichols, who was serving as inspector at the hospital.

Still, the wait had not been longer than 15 or 20 minutes all morning, and they haven’t had any issues with the eight voting machines, Nichols said.

“It’s been perfect here,” he said.

Sherry Keller, a Franklin resident, was in and out in about 10 minutes.

“Shortest wait time ever,” she said with a big smile as she exited the poll.

Keller said she’s always voted at the hospital on Election Day, and usually at around the same time. It’s close to home, so it’s convenient, she said. In the last election, she waited about 45 minutes, though.

Across town at Grace United Methodist Church, the line is much longer. People are waiting about an hour to vote.

Alicia Osborne was at the back of the line — which was outside — at 8:45 a.m. She had no idea why the wait time was so much shorter at the hospital a five-minute drive down the road.

“That’s actually closer to my house, so maybe I should go there,” she said, laughing.

She eventually decided to stick it out.

“This was my designated polling place before vote centers and it’s pretty close to where I live, so I’ve just always voted here. I’m comfortable here,” Osborne said. “But normally, I’m at least in the building.”

She wasn’t surprised the wait is longer this year, she said.

“This one’s a pretty big deal as far as midterms go. I haven’t seen this kind of turnout in my lifetime and I’m 36. If anything, I hope that it encourages more people — especially the young ones who are just now turning 18  — to get out and vote. Just get in the habit of doing it. I’ve voted in every election since I was 18,” Osborne said.

“No matter who you want to vote for, either way, just vote.”

Hundreds of voters have cast ballots at some sites already

8:15 a.m., Johnson Memorial Hospital, Franklin

The White River Branch of the Johnson County Public Library and Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood had already voted more 500 people each by 8 a.m.

Lines at the two popular vote centers on the north side of the county are hovering between 45 minutes and an hour, Clerk Sue Ann Misiniec said.

Voters looking for shorter lines should head south, she said.

The Edinburgh Public Library and Princes Lakes in Nineveh have only voted about 100 people so far, so voters are getting in and out fairly quickly at those two locations.

In Franklin, Johnson Memorial Hospital has voted about 250 people, but the lines aren’t terribly long, Misiniec said.

Grace United Methodist Church has been the busiest vote center in Franklin so far, and the Franklin Fire Station has been the least busy, she said.

A voter sent in this photo of the line to vote in Bargersville at 5:45 a.m.:

image1

‘I’ve never seen anything like this’

7:30 a.m., The Nest Event Center, Greenwood

Long-time Johnson County poll worker Allen Distler said this election is one for the record books.

He’s been an inspector for more than three decades. He’s manned several elections and several vote centers over the years. This year, they’re all the same – busy.

“The thing about this year is it’s constant. You have 15 to 20 people waiting at all times. The number of people and the long lines – it’s everywhere,” Distler said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, even in a presidential.”

The question of whether people would show up on Election Day after such a busy early voting season was never a question for Distler, he said.

“Of course they’ll show up. I don’t have any doubt it’ll be just like this the rest of the day,” Distler said.

Up and running

About half of The Nest’s 20 voting machines weren’t up and running by 6:15 a.m. – 15 minutes after the polls opened.

The lines were long – more than 100 deep before the doors even opened and growing by the minute.

Inspector Allen Distler was working to get all of the machines booted up, but they’re old and it takes time, he said.

Some people in the long line had started grumbling, but he was going as fast as he could, he said.

“It takes about 3 minutes each one,” Distler said. “We were here early. All of them should be good to go in the next 15 minutes or so.”

By 6:45, all of the machines were up and running and the line started moving a little faster.

“People expect delays. Most people are very cooperative,” he said.

Crystal Brooks, 22, of Greenwood, didn’t mind the 45-minute wait, even though it was longer than she thought it would be.

“I guess everyone’s going right before work. I should’ve assumed a longer wait,” Brooks said.

“I don’t mind waiting. I’m just glad I get to do it.”

She hopes the heavy turnout in this election is a sign of what’s to come, she said.

“This one influences a lot of policies, and people are especially divided right now. I think more than ever, people need their voices to be heard,” Brooks said.

Voters line the hallway inside The Nest before 6 a.m. on Election Day. The line of waiting voters was 100 people before voting started.
Voters line the hallway inside The Nest before 6 a.m. on Election Day. The line of waiting voters was 100 people before voting started.

Nestcrowd

At 6:30 a.m., voters were in a line wrapped around the building at Mount Auburn Methodist Church on Stones Crossing Road.

Twenty vote centers are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

If you encounter long lines, ask a poll worker to check wait times at other locations.

There’s just something about Election Day

7 a.m., The Nest Event Center, Greenwood

A 77-year-old Greenwood man was the first in line at The Nest Event Center on Tuesday morning.

Dean Prine arrived at 5:30 a.m., just like he does every year, he said.

He thought the line would be outside by then, but was pleasantly surprised when he realized he was among the first to show up.

He’s voted at the event center for years, he said — always on Election Day.

It gives him more time to analyze the candidates and think, he said.

“I like to watch the situation with the candidates play out. You should vote, but you should know the candidates and how they voted in the past, not just pay attention to what somebody’s telling you. I’m voting for our country, not a politician,” said Prine, a veteran.

“And I’m American. Americans should vote on Election Day.”

Voter turnout so far this year surprised Prine, who said he’s voted in past midterm elections when he’d walk into a vote center and walk right back out. But not this one.

Numbers are up significantly from the last midterm election. In fact, nearly 24,000 Johnson County voters have already cast ballots.

“I hope this straightens up our country,” Prine said.

Let us know how voting went for you.

Long line? Didn’t have the correct ID?

Call us at 317-736-2770 or email us at [email protected]

Here is where you can vote:

Mount Pleasant Christian Church, 381 N. Bluff Road, Greenwood

White River Public Library, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood

Rocklane Christian Church, 4430 Rocklane Road, Greenwood

Mount Auburn Methodist Church, 3100 W. Stones Crossing Road, Greenwood

Greenwood Christian Church, 2045 Averitt Road, Greenwood

Vineyard Community Church, 512 S. Madison Avenue, Greenwood

The Nest (formerly Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria), 100 Byrd Way, Greenwood

GracePoint Church, 330 Whiteland Road, New Whiteland

Bargersville Town Hall, 24 N. Main Street, Bargersville

Franklin Fire Station No. 23, 1150 Sloan Drive, Franklin

Franklin Community Center, 396 Branigin Blvd., at State Street, Franklin

Grace United Methodist Church, 1300 E. Adams Drive, Franklin

Johnson Memorial Hospital, Building 1159, 1159 W. Jefferson Street, Franklin

Trafalgar Public Library, 424 S. Tower Street, Trafalgar

Princes Lakes Town Hall, 14 E. Lakeview Drive, Nineveh

Edinburgh Public Library, 119 W. Main Cross Street, Edinburgh

Amity Volunteer Fire Department, 3247 S. County Road 550 East, Franklin

White River Township Trustee’s Office, 2929 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood

Community Church of Greenwood (main entrance), 1477 W. Main Street, Greenwood

Grace Assembly of God, 6822 N. U.S. 31, New Whiteland

Contributors: Scott Roberson, James Vaughn, Emily Ketterer, Andy Bell-Baltaci, Ryan Trares