CROWN POINT | The Lake County elections board voted 3-2 Monday afternoon to extend early voting hours an additional 19.5 hours between today and noon Election Day eve in the face of what is shaping up to be the largest voter turnout in a generation.
Michelle Fajman, county elections supervisor, said the additional hours are needed to accommodate an unprecedented voter turnout, which she said already approaches 10,000 who have voted early and in person.
"We have huge numbers. In my 19 years as director, I've never seen an election like the one we are seeing," Fajman said.
She said Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, the county Democratic chairman, asked for the additional time. Clay complained last week that too many voters were being turned away from the Gary courthouse voting site at its previous closing time of 4 p.m.
The two Republican board members questioned the need for a longer day and voted against it.
The Gary, Hammond, East Chicago and Crown Point early voting sites will be open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday this week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday, which is Election Day eve.
Early voting entered its fourth and final full week Monday with long lines of voters snaking through the hallways and atrium of the Lake County Government Complex in Crown Point, where seven machines constantly were in use.
Adolph Gant, of Crown Point, said Monday afternoon, "I waited one hour and 45 minutes to vote, but that's not too bad. At least it was indoors."
Gloria Banks, of Merrillville, said, "I waited an hour. Somebody told me I should vote early and now I feel good and relaxed that its over."
Election officials said the wait at the Gary courthouse voting site has started off at three hours and gotten worse in the afternoon. Officials have been busing some voters to the East Chicago courthouse voting site to relieve some of the pressure.
Nicholas Gasparovic, assistant county elections board director, said election officials expect a turnout of from 65 percent to 70 percent of the county's more than 300,000 registered voters.
He said officials hope more than 25,000 voters will have cast ballots either in person or by mail before Election Day to help reduce long lines.