State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns. From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County, IndyStar’s analysis found, and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County. That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people with transportation issues or busy schedules. And the results were immediate. Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63 percent increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26 percent decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations. Population growth and other factors may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.
“It was a great concept to open those (voting stations),” Richardson said, adding that the turnout might have increased with the addition of even more voting machines.
Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout.
But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population. During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.