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Enthusiasm high heading into Election Day

CAMPAIGNING: MSD of Wabash County candidate Tiffany Haupert talks to a passerby as she campaigns on the last day of early voting Monday.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Today is Election Day, but more than 20 percent of registered voters in this county have already cast their ballots for the 2018 midterm elections.

That’s a significant increase over the 2014 midterms when only 1,178 votes were cast, according to the Wabash County Clerk’s Office. Compare that to the 4,290 who had voted as of Monday, and the midterms appear on track for abnormally high voter participation in a non-presidential election year.

With more and more voters taking advantage of early voting options, candidates have had to shift their campaign strategies to get their message out earlier. That’s one reason why voters are seeing campaign advertisements earlier and earlier in the year.

“They used to be able to count on last minute blitzes of ads,” said Leonard Williams, a political science professor and dean of Manchester University’s College of Education and Social Sciences. “But with early voting, they can’t do that. They have to run ads as early and often as possible, which is why a lot of voters get sick of campaigns. They’re seeing more ads for longer periods of time.”

Williams said candidates will often tailor their early voting campaigns around guaranteed support, focusing their attention on persuadable voters for Election Day.

Last-minute campaigning may be even more important for local candidates with no party affiliation, like those running for the MSD of Wabash County and Manchester Community Schools boards.

Tiffany Haupert, for example, was outside the Wabash County Judicial Center talking to voters Monday morning.

“I’m meeting people every hour that don’t know who they are voting for yet,” said Haupert, a candidate for the MSD board. “Coming out here, meeting them and putting a face to the name is important. I think people a lot of times feel their vote doesn’t count, but in this county, in this election, it counts more. It can have a direct impact on our school system and our community.”

Local parties are still busy encouraging voters to head to the polls.

“We take every campaign as serious as we do this one,” said Barbara Pearson, chair of the Wabash County GOP. “The enthusiasm is there, and people are taking it upon themselves to get out and vote.”

Wabash County Democratic Party Chair Chad Harris said his party’s get out the vote efforts started in September.

“I think there are several races and initiatives that are driving early voting and turnout at a local level,” Harris said. “(But) this has been a referendum nationally on President Trump and whether you’re happy with what is going on or if you believe there should be a balance on him with a Democratic congress.