Hoosiers continue to head to the polls Tuesday in the culmination of a contentious election that has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and summer protests for racial justice.
Early turnout was strong across Indiana with voters waiting in lines for hours at some locations. The secretary of state's office said Monday that more than 1.7 million voters cast their ballots early – nearly double the number who voted early in 2016.
Here's the latest on Election Day:
Monument Circle was quiet as the polls in Indianapolis closed. Very few people were on the streets. Businesses were continuing to board windows- bracing for potential protests and demonstrations.
Circle pretty quiet. Except for the boards being installed. pic.twitter.com/1g8Lkw2GoH— Darian Benson (@HelloImDarian) November 3, 2020
When Les Smith arrived at the City-County Building, he thought the lack of a line meant it was too late to vote.
“When I first came up and didn’t see anything, I was disappointed,” Smith said.
But he arrived before the polls closed at 6 p.m. and he was glad he was able to cast his ballot and make his voice heard.
“I’m just voting because I feel like my vote counts for something," Smith said. "The way things are going -- the destruction, the crime and everything -- it counts for something.
Polls in much of the Indiana close at 6 p.m. Eastern time. Portions of the state in the Central time zone close an hour later.
There was not a line at the City-County Building during the last hour of voting.
Jacob Butts and his girlfriend voted there Tuesday with less than a half hour left before the polls closed. He said he felt good about waiting until the end of Election Day because of the lack of lines.
“It was easy. We felt bad delaying it for so long, but it sort of paid off because there weren’t as many people," Butts said. "It made it a lot easier, a lot safer. It was painfree.”
In previous weeks, during early voting at the Marion County Clerk's Office, voters waited in line for hours.
Non-partisan advocacy group Common Cause Indiana is monitoring the polls today. The organization focuses on politics and Policy Director Julie Vaughn characterized the problems reported as typical.
“At the very start of the day doors locked, people showing up late, election machines that they didn’t have the key for so voting couldn’t start,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said the organization received a lot more calls about voters’ partisan behavior.
“Some voters feeling uncomfortable because of the way other voters are acting," Vaughn said."That’s really been the one that is really new this year.”
She said more people may have reported partisan behavior today because of a heightened awareness there could be problems at the polls. Vaughn said wait times across the state were shorter today compared to early voting.
Voters at Speedway Town Hall have experienced wait times of about 25 minutes. Wayne Bosman took a half-day off work to cast his vote. He said he hopes his vote contributes to economic and social changes.
“Well, I would like to see more equality in America, that’s one though," Bosman said. "Better medical insurance for everyone.”
Kevin McCullough was also in line Tuesday waiting to cast his vote. He said he's hoping his vote can help the country bounce back to “good standings.”
“I’m nervous because, you know, right now, this country’s walking on a tightrope, and either way, whoever wins, we have a lot of roadblocks ahead whoever wins, and I believe that, you know," McCullough said. "The way I’m voting, hopefully, gives the country a better chance to make it back on good standings.”
The race for four seats on the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners will be the most expensive in the district’s history. So far around $430,000 has been raised in total -- though just four of the 10 candidates have raised nearly all of that campaign cash.
Three political action committees have been source for much of that money, giving around $285,000 to the same candidates.
Depending on who wins, the seven-member school board could face an ideological shift toward how reforms and improvements are carried out for the state’s largest district. WFYI’s Eric Weddle reported on what is at stake here. The Chalkbeat Indiana-WFYI IPS candidate guide is here.
So far, the most money has poured into the four-way at-large race, where challenger Kenneth Allen raised $174,000. The incumbent, Elizabeth Gore raised just $12,185 according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Two other candidates in the race -- Ellis Noto and Kendra McKnight -- have not filed any campaign spending reports.
Early this morning, a billboard-on-wheels promoting Allen drove through the parking lot of the polling site at Arlington Middle School.
Midday voting at Indianapolis Fire Department No. 9 in Castleton was steady. People waited about 15 minutes to cast their votes on Election Day at the Northside location.
First time poll worker Anne Beal voted early absentee because of her job. She said the desire to work the polls comes during this time of unrest, and she’s heard the same from others.
“We found a positive outlet to maybe, hopefully, affix some change and to help out in society in a positive way,” Beal said.
She said there was about a 45 minute wait when the location opened up this morning.
The lead-up to the Attorney General race has been nothing but dramatic -- and continues to be today. The campaign for Republican candidate Todd Rokita announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
Attorney General candidate Todd Rokita won’t be at the Indiana GOP’s election night event - his campaign just announced Rokita tested positive for COVID.— Brandon J. Smith (@brandonjsmith5) November 3, 2020
He has developed some symptoms. He’s at home, quarantining per proper guidelines.
Rokita, the former Secretary of State, is up against Democratic candidate and former Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. The Indiana Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law license of Indiana's current AG, Republican Curtis Hill, back in May for criminally battering four women. Republican state convention delegates chose Rokita over Hill to be their nominee.
The wait to vote was short at McCordsville Town Hall in Hancock County as of early afternoon. Paul Thirion was among those in line to cast a ballot. He said he voted because he loves his country.
"I love my country, hate the idea of the people that hate our country, and tearing down buildings and burning everything and hating the cops … wanting abortions,” Thirion said. "Things like that could possibly take over.“
James Thomas also voted at the McCordsville Town Hall Tuesday afternoon. He said he voted with the future in mind.
"I feel it’s the right thing to do,” Thomas said. "I’m thinking about the future and my kids and my family."
Tracy Paris was pleased with how the McCordsville Town Hall made voting easy and safe.
"It was a quick and easy process in here. I think it was well sanitized and coordinated,” Paris said. "It was just a very easy process for people to come out and make their voices heard."
During early voting in Marion County, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church had some of the longest lines reported. People waited up to eight hours to cast a ballot at the vote center. On Election Day a steady stream of voters flowed in and out of the building.
Theresa Marrotta and her 3-year old, Charlie, stood outside and thanked voters while passing out snacks and water.
“We wanted to show our support for everyone coming in today and hopefully everyone is able to make it out,” Marrotta said.
Shortly before noon the wait was only a few minutes at this location where no problems had been reported.
During early voting, an hours-long line wound all around Mercy Church in Hamilton County. But late morning on Election Day the line was only a few minutes.
First time voter 24-year old Austin Clay said he’s really not into politics, but will be voting for President Trump.
“I seen Trump does a lot more good for the state,” Clay said.
Clay was voting with his aunt CJ Sizemore, also a Trump supporter. Sizemore said she will not be voting a straight Republican ticket. She gave her thought about the high voter turnout.
“People know this is a pivotal moment,” Sizemore said.
Hamilton County reported three times the number of early voters compared to 2016.
The lines at Carmel’s Brookshire Golf Club in Hamilton County thinned out quickly after polls opened. By 9:30 a.m. Michelle Hennessy only had to wait five minutes. She said she is more than ready for the political ads, specially those for the 5th Congressional District, to be over.
“I feel like I can’t turn on anything without seeing something,” Hennessy said.
The race to succeed Republican Susan Brooks, who did not seek re-election this year, has been of the most fiercely contested in the state. Reports indicate political action groups spent more than $5 million in advertising for the race between Republican Victoria Spartz and Democrat Christina Hale.
South of Indianapolis in Johnson County, things have been going smoothly. The line at the Johnson County Public Library in Greenwood was moving consistently. Nearby at Vineyard Community Church, a poll worker said about 100 people were in line to vote about an hour after the polls opened, but the line moved quickly and there hadn't been a wait since.
Lines at Warren Central High School polling site on Indianapolis's eastside were short a few hours after the doors opened to voters. Brie Patterson was there to vote with her 1-year-old son.
“Well I’m a single mom, so it was just like either I got out and vote, or I stayed at home. So I just brought him with me to get out here,” Patterson said.
Nearby, at the Warren Township Government Center the line was a bit longer. Lauren Hunt was in line for about 20 minutes. She said she was voting because it is her right.
“I’m a woman and they fought hard for that and it’s my right. I wouldn’t miss it,” Hunt said.
Chris Stonebraker requested a mail in ballot but brought it with him to the Warren Township Government Center. He said he was hesitant to vote absenente and will surrender his ballot to a poll worker.
“I’m going to turn it in and vote in person," Stonebraker said. "I’ve just heard so much stuff on the news.”
Voters are able to surrender their mail in ballots to poll workers and vote in person instead. Absentee ballots must be turned in by noon.
At Frederick Douglass Family Center on East 25th Street voting got off to a slow start this morning when no one had keys to open up at 6 a.m. About 40 minutes later, voters were starting to get into the building.
The problem was reported to ProPublica's Electionland and confirmed at the center.
Hardy Thomas, who lives down the street, was able to walk in and vote quickly around 8:30 a.m. He wants people to try and do their best no matter what the results are confirmed to be in all races.
"When all the things are counted...that's what it's going to be. Everybody is just going to have to accept that. Until the next term comes and you make your voice heard again."
As the polls opened on this Election Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are taking steps to make the experience safer for voters.
Russell Hollis, deputy director of the Marion County Clerk’s office, was at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse polling site early Tuesday morning and said he’s confident that people can vote safely and quickly.
“We have hand sanitizer located throughout the polling place. We will frequently sanitize voter equipment in between uses," Hollis said. "And voters can use either a glove or finger sleeve to make their selection on voter equipment.”
At the MLK Service Center near 38th and Meridian streets, voters lined up before the doors opened at 6 a.m. Chairs were brought out by center volunteers for those in line along West 40th and Illinois Streets. Many said they came out this morning because they did not want to wait in the longlines for early voting.
Alandra Penn was one of the first people in line. She wanted to make sure her vote is counted.
"It's important that we exercise our right to vote, you know, there are so many issues, the crime issue, issues with schooling and funding and to me gentrifying our neighborhoods and things like that. So there's a lot of issues on the table for me as a Black woman and a single Black mother. So that's why I'm here."
The polls have opened across Indiana and will reamin open until 6 p.m. local time. There are reports of lines in some locations.
To help voters get to the polls, there are some free transportation options available in Marion County. The Indianapolis Cultural Trial is providing free access to Pacers Bikeshare on today, and IndyGo fixed routes and Open Door services are running fare-free until 10 p.m.
WFYI's Eric Weddle, Robert Moscato-Goodpaster, Darian Benson, Jill Sheridan and Taylor Bennett contributed these reports.