10/4/20 Early Voting at Mackey

The line for early voting wrapped around the southwest entrance of Mackey Arena around noon.

A line of voters stretched around Mackey Arena Wednesday afternoon as Purdue students, joined by West Lafayette and Lafayette residents, waited to cast their ballots early.

Within the arena, the polls were staffed by six poll workers, 11 volunteers and the entire pledge class from the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi.

Aaron Berghoff, a freshman studying agricultural economics, shared the fraternity’s goals in volunteering.

“We want to show that ... we’re going to help the community, we’re going to do as much as we can to make an impact,” Berghoff said.

Sam Biznek, a freshman in the Polytechnic Institute, said Phi Kappa Psi sought to fill the void left by older poll workers who are more likely to suffer severe symptoms of the coronavirus.

“When I was told that there weren’t many volunteers that were here because typically the volunteers were older people because of COVID, I was happy to help and bring some of my brothers,’” he said.

The poll workers on staff also recognized the need for a robust personnel. The line of voters stretched into the hundreds before the vote center opened its doors, and record-highs for early turnout last week set an eager tone.

Zev Meyer, a first-time voter and a freshman in engineering, said the voting process at Mackey was “well-organized and sanitary.” He waited an hour to cast his ballot, he said, but felt safe while standing among hundreds of others.

West Lafayette resident Carrie Berger said, “(COVID-19) certainly didn’t discourage me in any way.”

“The consequences of this election are more significant than previous years,” she said.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels, in conjunction with the Purdue Votes Coalition, has backed the ALL IN challenge, aiming to increase voter turnout among students.

“A troublesome constant of our political system has been the rate at which younger Americans have forfeited their right to have an equal say in our nation’s affairs by the simple process of voting,” Daniels said. “Today’s young people have a huge stake in public decisions and need to have a larger say in them.”

Daniels and the Purdue Votes Coalition seek to increase voter turnout on campus to 55% this election. According to poll workers, turnout seems higher than normal.

“With the coronavirus and high voter turnout, they need all hands on deck,” poll worker Andrew Redd said. “This (crowd) looks pretty massive for an early voting location, especially on campus.”

According to the county clerk’s office, 1,268 people voted early at Mackey Arena on Wednesday.

Poll workers were also required to enforce sanitation and social distancing restrictions to ensure voter safety amid the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have the seals there,” said Redd, gesturing to markers of pink tape on the ground indicating proper social distancing, “and we have hand sanitizer and a guy who goes around and wipes everything down.”

Poll workers outside Mackey also managed the line, ensuring that only a certain number of people were inside the building at any given time.

When asked for his thoughts on voting during the pandemic, West Lafayette resident Steve McKenzie, who waited over an hour to vote, said he approved of the safety measures.

“I think that waiting outside was a good thing,” he said. “If we had to wait the entire time inside, that would have been an issue.”

McKenzie elected to vote in person rather than by an absentee ballot out of concern for the security of the election, he said.

“I’m really concerned about the mail-in ballots, that they will be contested and there’s no reason for them to be contested, no evidence in the past,” McKenzie said. “This was my biggest concern, but that’s why I’m not voting by mail.”

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