CROWN POINT | Someone had to lock the front door of the Lake County Government Complex about noon Monday to bring an end to the heavy balloting that characterized the final days of the early voting period.
"You don't have a voice if you don't vote," Julie Kesler of Merrillville and the last person in line, said.
The line, which filled several government center corridors, was so long she had to wait about 75 minutes before she was finally admitted into a lobby where a bank of voting machines was set up.
Polling places open 6 a.m. today and close 6 p.m.
Election officials in Lake and Porter counties were still tabulating their final early-voting totals late Monday.
Lake County recorded more than 24,500 early walk-in votes cast between Oct. 9 and Friday, according to Sally LaSota, county elections board director. That exceeds the record-setting in-person early voting total in 2008 and doesn't include the thousands of votes cast Saturday and Monday.
More than 6,100 paper absentee ballots have been cast as well. Together, they represent close to 10 percent of the county's total of registered voters.
The number of ballots cast by the end of last week was on track to exceed a total of 17,000 from four years ago, Kathy Kozuszek, the Democratic director at the Lake County voter registration office, said.
LaSota said she was sorry about the long lines experienced in the final days. She said there was little or no waiting when the early voting period began a month ago, when an average of just 685 ballots were being cast daily in person.
Last week, no fewer than 1,500 walked into early voting booths, and some 2,425 flooded the polling places Friday.
Peter Gomez, of Crown Point, found himself behind more than 150 people Monday.
"I went to the dentist's office first," he said as he contemplated an even more painful experience ahead.
"I get nervous about people complaining and I'm sure the politicians do too, but when everybody comes at once, that is what we are faced with. I guess that's human nature."
Matt Virus said he, his wife and 20-year-old son voted Saturday at the satellite county courthouse on Russell Street in Hammond.
"We waited for over four hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it," Virus said.
"It was the coolest thing to watch so many people from so many backgrounds coming together. It was so community. No one complained or even left the building. Everyone was talking and being pleasant."