Not even a COVID-19 pandemic could stop Bartholomew County voters from either mailing in their ballots or voting in person in Tuesday’s primary.
A total of 6,322 voters in Bartholomew County turned out to cast ballots for Indiana’s presidential primary, which was delayed four weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lines of voters waiting to mark their choices at one point stretched outside Terrace Lake Church, 4260 W. County Road 200S, nearly into the street, said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps.
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At 4 p.m., there was at least a 15-minute wait to cast votes at Donner Center, 739 22nd St, which had the highest turnout of the eight voting locations in the county, with 1,431 votes cast, according to county figures. Terrace Lake Church had the second most, with 961.
A total of 16,118 people voted in-person in the 2016 presidential primary.
Phelps said election-day turnout this year was about what he expected given an expanded vote-by-mail effort and higher-than-anticipated turnout for early in-person voting at Donner Center.
“Overall, the day went really well. I know there were times where we had some lines but that was expected with the social distancing,” said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps. “We weren’t going to try to cram everyone in the building at one time so we really appreciate the voters’ patience.”
Tuesday’s presidential primary was Indiana’s first election to feature widespread mail-in balloting after the in-person primary was pushed back four weeks due to the spread of COVID-19 across the state, according to the The Associated Press.
Nearly 550,000 voters requested mail-in ballots — more than 10 times the number of those ballots cast during the 2016 primary, according to wire reports.
A record 8,313 Bartholomew County voters cast their ballots by mail this year — 12.5 times more than the 660 mail-in votes in the 2016 presidential primary, according to county records.
Poll workers and election staff took several safety measures aimed at reducing the chance of spreading COVID-19 at local polling sites, including wearing masks and gloves and spacing voters and electronic voting machines out by a least 6 feet, Phelps said.
Here’s a roundup of the primary results. For complete coverage with more photos and candidate comments, see therepublic.com.
Voters approved the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. referendum seeking a tax increase to fund teacher and support staff salary increases and student safety measures. The vote was 9,356 people (61.33%) voting for the referendum and 5,900 people (38.67%) against.
The referendum will generate about $7.8 million per year in additional property tax revenue. BCSC property taxes will be raised by $0.156 per $100 of assessed value to roughly $1.01 starting in 2021.
A total of 86.5% of the increased property tax revenue will be spent on employee recruitment and retention and 13.5% on student safety, according to figures from BCSC. The latter category includes plans for “funding for existing school resource officers, mental health counselors in all buildings, and to update the bus fleet so that no buses are older than 12 years old.” The pay increase for teachers will begin in January of 2021, but the property tax increase will not begin until May 2021.
According to a property tax calculator on BCSC’s website, a home with an assessed value $141,800 — the average home value in BCSC’s tax district — will see an estimated annual property tax increase of $93.48, or $7.79 per month.
Bartholomew County’s property tax rate in 2019 was $0.8512, lower than the state average of $1.07, according to figures provided by BCSC.
Bartholomew County voters should expect to see a similar referendum in the 2028 primary election, school officials said. According to BCSC’s website, “The need to invest in local public school employee salaries will not go away at the end of the eight-year period. BCSC will likely ask to renew the referendum, as long as the state legislature still allows this one method for increasing local revenues. This is essentially a request to reset the base property tax rate.”
Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won Indiana’s presidential primary.
The Democratic result in Indiana was expected because Biden’s rivals have already dropped out of the race. The former vice president’s haul of delegates from the Indiana victory pushed him closer to the 1,911 delegates he needed to capture the Democratic presidential nomination.
SIXTH DISTRICT CONGRESS
Presumed frontrunners for the Republican and Democratic nominations for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District had commanding victories in Bartholomew County Tuesday night.
The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, who is seeking a second term in the same seat his brother, Vice President Mike Pence, held before a successful 2012 gubernatorial bid and joining Donald Trump’s presidential ticket in 2016.
In Bartholomew County, Pence, 63, received 8,657 votes, or 83.93% against GOP challenger Mike Campbell of Wayne County, who had 1,658 votes or 16.07%.
On the Democratic side, Jeannine Lee Lake, 50, received over triple the votes of her two challengers in Bartholomew County, Barry Welsh of Hancock County and George T. Holland of Rush County.
Lake had received 3,796 votes, or 76.22% against Welsh, who had received 457 votes, 9.18% and Holland, with 727 votes, 14.6%.
DISTRICT 59 STATE REPRESENTATIVE
Dale Nowlin won the Democratic nomination for Indiana House of Representatives District 59, defeating Cynthia “Cinde” Wirth.
Nowlin, 66, received 2,594 votes, or 55.2% of the vote, against Wirth, 50, who received 2,105 votes, or 44.8%.
Nowlin will challenge State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, in the November general election. Lauer ran unopposed in the GOP primary.
SUPERIOR COURT 2 JUDGE
Jon Rohde, a police officer with Columbus Police Department for more than 19 years and Columbus police chief for five years, won the Republican nomination for Bartholomew Superior Court 2 judge in a close race among four candidates.
Rohde received 3,274 votes, or nearly 32 percent of the vote, to runners up attorney Scott C. Andrews, with 2,918 votes (28.46%), attorney Dom Glover with 2,194 (21.4%) and Joe Meek, magistrate, at 1,868 (18.2%).
There is currently no Democratic candidate for the judge seat.
COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 3
In the race for the Republican nomination for Bartholomew County Commissioner District 3, Columbus businessman Tony London won by a very narrow margin of just over 200 votes over long-time community leader Dan Arnholt. A third GOP candidate, JoAnne Flohr, had about half the votes that each of her two opponents garnered.
London was at 4,211 (42.52%), Arnholt at 3,989 (40.28%) and Flohr at 1,704 (17.21%).
There are no Democratic candidates at this time to challenge London in the general election. The District 3 seat is being vacated by Rick Flohr, who announced in early January that he would not seek a third consecutive term.
COUNCIL AT LARGE
As it was two years ago, the incumbents running for Bartholomew County Council a-large turned out to be the winners in the Republican primary.
Bill Lentz, Matt Miller and Evelyn Strietelmeier Pence each received roughly 20% of the vote to earn the GOP nomination for the three seats. Incumbent Laura DeDomenic came in fourth place, but will remain on the council for another two years after winning the District 2 council seat in 2018. DeDomenic was seeking an at-large seat this year that would allow her to stay on the council but possibly move out of her district.
Vote totals were:
Pence: 5,237 (20.57%)
Lentz: 5,195 (20.41%)
Miller: 5,010 (19.68%)
DeDomenic: 4,154 (16.32%)
Andrew Brunni: 2,530 (9.94%)
Bill Read: 1,784 (7.01%)
Derick Olson: 1,544 (6.07%)