Early voting under way in downtown Goshen
Goshen joined the rest of Indiana in getting a head start in the presidential election, beginning to cast ballots a full month before Election Day, which will be on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Chris Anderson, the Elkhart County clerk and head of the county’s Board of Elections, said the only early voting station in Goshen is downtown, at First Presbytarian Church along East Lincoln Avenue. The entrance is via the Fifth Street parking lot.
Anderson said that he open hours for early voting are working hours. On Thursday and Friday this week, the church will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Anderson said. The following week, Oct. 19 to 23, the church will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early voting ends on Monday, Nov. 2, when the vote center is open from 8 a.m. to noon.
Richard Aguirre, Goshen College’s diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator, said that for Goshen College students registered in Elkhart County, the closest voting station from campus, on Election Day, will be at Greencroft Goshen, the retirement campus.
“It’s off of College Avenue,” he said, “and you can walk there in 15 minutes. It will only take a few minutes by bike.”
He also mentioned that students can vote downtown at the County Courthouse.
According to the Elkhart County’s website, voters must follow social distancing markers on the floor but are not required to wear masks. That said, they are encouraged to do so and poll workers are required to wear masks. Each voting center will be equipped with hand sanitizer, masks and gloves for people who want them.
Anderson added, regardless of whether a person wears gloves or not, the voter is required to use a Q-Tip for the electronic touch screen.
Indiana’s in-person voting requires residents to show an official photo identification before entering. Aguirre said that college and university identification cards count but only for public schools. Goshen College students have to show a United States-issued identification, such as a driver’s license.
According to Anderson, anyone registered in Elkhart County is able to vote at any of its voting stations. So, a Goshen College student who lives in Elkhart, for example, might find it more convenient to vote at the Elkhart voting center, the Health Department at the Lincoln Center, 608 Oakland Ave. A registry shared by the voting centers will record when someone has voted. .
Elkhart County is also accepting mailed absentee and drop-off ballots.
“My staff is currently sorting through and counting ballots,” Anderson said. He mentioned that five full mailing containers had arrived in the first week. Each container holds about 300 ballots.
Not every county conducts their voting like Elkhart does. Aguirre said that “there are no national voting standards [besides eligibility].” Each state has its own voting laws.
In order to vote in the United States, a person must be a United States citizen, be 18 years old or older, not currently be in jail and not have any mental capacities.
Indiana and Illinois require voters to register at least 30 days before an election. The deadline this was Oct. 5. However, in Oregon, voters can register up to 15 days before the election. Other states allow citizens to register within eight days or even the day of an election.
The differences extend beyond registration. Aguirre said each state has different ballot casting methods. Some states require people to hole-punch their choices; others ask voters to fill out their ballot using a special ink pen or send it in electronically. Some states like Oregon, use only mail-in ballots.
“Because of COVID, other states are following this method,” he said, “Many primary elections required mailed ballots.”
Indiana lists qualifying conditions for absentee or mail-in ballots; it’s not enough for a voter to simply cite a personal preference. Absentee voting deadlines vary as well.
According to in.gov, absentee ballots must be filed at least 12 days before an election. The person must request their ballot online. Once the person gets the ballot, he or she must mail it to the county election office. Postmarked ballots sent before the 12-day mark but received after will not be counted in Indiana.
These ballots may be counted during or after in person voting.
Even early voting varies. Early voting is currently happening in several states such as Minnesota, Virginia, South Dakota and Wyoming. According to the early voting calendar, some states like Delaware do not allow any early voting. Alabama’s legislation states it does not have early voting and only allows in-person absentee voting.
Voting differences may vary from county to county. Some counties are mandating masks and social distancing during in person voting. Others recommend the measures.
“I know it may be confusing,” Aguirre said, “but elections do affect you, your family, and your friends.”
For example, he mentioned that some candidates would like to forgive all student loans while others wish to increase them.
The college distributed an informational email to every student on Sept. 29, informing students of Indiana’s voter registration and deadlines. For out of state students, links were posted for all 50 states’ registration steps and deadlines.
Although this patchwork voting system works, Aguirre said that it is not perfect. For example, he said, some working class people cannot afford to wait in line to vote. “I think we should have Election Day be a national holiday [with] a longer time frame,” he said. “I wish the hours were from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.”
Currently, Indiana’s voting stations are open on Election Day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., which are typical workday hours. Oregon has their stations open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. while Georgia has theirs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Aguirre added that college students make up a huge percentage of the voter population, but some states make it hard for students to vote. They place voting stations far away from campus.
“I think Goshen College should have national election days off,” he said, because “some people don’t have time in their schedule to vote.”
Aguirre said he had not yet formally proposed the idea to the Goshen College top administrators, President Rebecca Stoltzfus and Dean Ann Vendrely.
Anderson underscored the importance of voting: “Every registered person must vote at least once to get a feel about how democracy works.”
Anderson predicted that voter turnout would be record setting.
Anderson predicted a 60% to 65% voter turnout in Elkhart County. In previous years, the county averaged 55% to 60% turnout.