Decision 2018 Election Day blog: Dems take over House, Repubs still hold Senate

Onlookers celebrate at the GOP watch party as results come into the J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis on election night, Nov. 6, 2018. (WTHR Photo/Nicole Hernandez)
Johnson County election issues
Election Day update: Most polls just closed

Follow Election Day with this Eyewitness News Decision 2018 blog as we cover voters going to the polls throughout the day.

5 a.m. - With three Senate races still too close to call, Republicans already hold a Senate majority after three Democratic incumbents lost their races. Joe Donnelly, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp and Missouri's Claire McCaskill all lost.

In the House, however, Democrats gained ground.

10:58 p.m. - WTHR projects State Sen. Mike Delph, who has been in office since 2005, will lose his seat to Democratic challenger J.D. Ford.

10:54 p.m. - WTHR projects Democrat Terry Curry will keep his job as Marion County Prosecutor, and Democrat Kerry Joseph Forestal will be Marion County's new sheriff. Current sheriff John Layton was term-limited and so could not run for re-election this year.

10:44 p.m. - "Mike, Mike, Mike!"

Those were the chants and cheers from the crowd as Republican Senator-elect Mike Braun took the stage at the J.W. Marriott Tuesday night, celebrating a big political victory over Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly.

Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer told supporters that 2 million voter contacts and four visits from President Trump and Vice President Pence were key to boosting turnout and key to this victory.

Braun beamed when he was introduced, thanking his wife and joking about when he told her he wanted to run for the Senate. He also told supporters "I won't let you down," and admitted that this campaign was a vicious one. He said what needs to change in politics is that it's become way too nasty.

Now Braun has a chance as a U.S. Senator to lead by example - embrace civility and bridge bitter divides, while building on what he calls robust Trump policies that he believes will help Hoosiers.

--Jennie Runevitch

10:40 p.m. - Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement congratulating Mike Braun on his Senate victory, saying, in full, "Congratulations to Mike Braun, Indiana’s next U.S. Senator. I’ve always said that we need more Indiana in Washington, and that’s exactly what we’re getting with Mike Braun. Mike Braun understands the 28 words of the 10th Amendment. He’s built a homegrown Indiana business and served at the Statehouse. He knows a thing or two about Hoosier solutions – and he’ll take those solutions with him Washington.”

10:22 p.m. - NBC News projects the GOP will keep the Senate but Democrats will take control of the House.

10:16 p.m. - The Marion County Election Board unanimously voted to suspend the counting of absentee ballots for the night. There are approximately 50,000 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted. The Election Board will resume counting absentee ballots at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

10:10 p.m. - WTHR projects the GOP's trio of statewide officers, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, State Auditor Tera Klutz and State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, will all hold their offices.

9:57 p.m. - IPS confirms voters have approved two referenda worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the district. Noblesville also passed its own $50 million school referendum. A spokesperson released a statement saying, in part, "We are grateful to voters who supported this effort and will continue our drive to invest in teachers, make our schools safer and provide our students with an inspiring and rewarding education."

9:52 p.m. - Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who will face re-election in 2022, released a statement saying, in full:

"Hoosiers have spoken, and they have elected Mike Braun to join me in the United States Senate. I congratulate Mike on his election, and I look forward to working together to continue moving America forward. Whether we’re confirming judges, or advancing policies that have our economy booming, Mike Braun will be an excellent partner in the fight for Hoosier priorities.

"I would also like to thank Joe Donnelly for his years of service to the people of Indiana. We have always enjoyed a positive and productive relationship, and I thank him for his dedication to our great state."

9:45 p.m. - WTHR projects Jackie Walorski (R-District 2) will keep her seat in the U.S. House, representing northern Indiana. Pete Visclosky in the first district is the only U.S. House seat not yet called because he represents northwest Indiana in Central Time where votes are later to come in. The First District is the most solidly Democratic in the state, with democrats holding it since 1931.

9:29 p.m. - Rep Andre' Carson celebrates victory, saying serving is a tremendous responsibility and honor. He says Senator Joe Donnelly will be back, Democrats will fight on and promises President Donald Trump will be a one-term president.
--Rich Van Wyk

9:28 p.m. - Sen. Joe Donnelly has conceded the Senate race to Mike Braun. He promised to work with Braun to make a smooth transition. After a bitter and often personal campaign, Donnelly was gracious, calling himself the luckiest guy in the world.
--Rich Van Wyk

9:15 p.m. - WTHR projects Susan Brooks (R-District 5) will keep her seat in the U.S. House. This was the closest House race in Indiana this year, with Brooks winning roughly 56-44.

9:02 p.m. - Cautious optimism abounds at the J.W. Marriott, where Republicans have gathered to watch Election Night results.

Many are quietly confident that Mike Braun can pull off a victory in a pivotal U.S. Senate race against incumbent Joe Donnelly.

Early in the evening, reporters outnumbered supporters in the ballroom - with at least two dozen crews covering this hotly-contested race. Now, there are a lot of current and former politicians, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, former Lt. Governor Becky Skillman and Jasper Mayor (where Mike Braun is from) Terry Seitz. They won't make predictions on that Senate race, but appear encouraged by high voter turnout.

Regular Hoosiers are here, too, some of them bearing the trademark MAGA red hats, some of them with children in tow. They say they are thrilled with President Trump's efforts to get out the Republican base. They tell me the economy is the most important issue and the reason they want to see Republican victories tonight.

John Baker from Greenwood really knows how to make an entrance. When he came into the ballroom, camera flashes started immediately. Dressed as Uncle Sam, wearing USA sunglasses and carrying a big, colorful Trump banner, he proudly said he's been stumping for 12 hours today. He says he's ready for a big win.

And here's what you don't see on tv: behind the scenes there's an interesting menu for the crowd: mini corn dogs, soft pretzels and nachos. I must say, the mini corn dogs were pretty tasty. Yes, there's a bar, too. And no, I didn't sample anything there.

--Jennie Runevitch

9 p.m. - RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce released a statement saying, in full, "The RNC has a new nickname we think will really stick this time: former Senator Donnelly."

8:58 p.m. - WTHR projects Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-District 9, will keep his seat in the U.S. House.

8:56 p.m. - NBC News projects Mike Braun will win the U.S. Senate race, defeating incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly.

8:50 p.m. - According to a Democratic source, voting results are coming in slow and steady. Party officials are still feeling good about the Senate race because they are still waiting to get numbers from strong Democratic areas. However, in rural areas, Republican Mike Braun did better than they counted on.
--Rich VanWyk

8:48 p.m. - WTHR projects incumbent Republicans Jim Baird (District 4) and Larry Bucshon (District 8) will keep their seats in the U.S. House.

8:23 p.m. - WTHR projects the state constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget will pass. 13 Investigates did a fact check on the amendment in October. Read more about what the amendment will and will not do by clicking here.

8:21 p.m. - WTHR is projecting incumbents Jim Banks (R-District 3) and Andre Carson (D-District 7) will keep their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

8:14 p.m. - Indiana Democratic Party chairman John Zody told supporters to prepare themselves for a long night. Early results show Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly trailing Republican challenger Mike Braun. Party officials say they've seen nothing surprising or unexpected in the initial returns.
--Rich VanWyk

7:48 p.m. - Election results from around the country have Indiana Democrats on their feet and applauding. Marion County results in the Braun / Donnelly race excited the crowd and kept them clapping.
--Rich VanWyk

7:47 p.m. - Pence said his brother Mike called him this evening and congratulated him on his victory and said he's excited to have his brother join him in DC. Greg Pence says there is an orientation next week for new lawmakers. He says he'll need to learn how to vote because being a legislator is a new adventure.
--Allen Carter

7:45 p.m. - WTHR is projecting Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence's brother, will win the 6th Congressional District - the seat the vice president held for 12 years himself.

7:18 p.m. - Democratic Party party-goers are hoping for a victory celebration for Senator Joe Donnelly in a downtown hotel banquet room. Many of them are young, and many are women. At least one poll gives Donnelley the edge among younger female voters. With many polls closing late, many here are expecting a late night.
--Rich VanWyk

6:26 p.m. - Sen. Joe Donnelly addressed supporters and the media, encouraging anyone who is in line to stay in line and make sure your voice gets heard. He also said he wouldn't be phased by a long night, because he's run close races before.

6:24 p.m. - The counting process has begun as polls close across most of central Indiana.

6:14 p.m. - Press are setting up at the GOP watch party at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis, including our own Scott Swan.

Members of the press getting ready at the GOP watch party on election night, Nov. 6, 2018, at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. (WTHR Photo/Scott Swan)

6:09 p.m. - Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence's brother and congressional candidate for the 6th District, has arrived for his watch party in Columbus.

6:07 p.m. - While polls stay open an extra hour in Monroe County after a ballot shortage slowed voting today, votes cast from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. will be provisional ballots. That means a judge will have to approve them to be counted.

6 p.m. - Polls are closed across most of central Indiana. No new voters will be allowed to join the lines at polling sites, but anyone who was in line by 6 p.m. can vote regardless of how long it takes to get through the line.

5:45 p.m. - Monroe County's polls will stay open one hour longer, until 7 p.m., after a ballot shortage at roughly half of their polling sites.

5:12 p.m. - At 5 p.m the election commission was still waiting to hear. The Monroe County Clerk Nicole Browne has requested that the Monroe County polling places remain open until 7 p.m., and the election board is waiting to find out if Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff will approve the request.

4:55 p.m. - Monroe County is talking with a judge to discuss the possibility of extending their voting hours because of ballot shortages at up to half of their voting sites, an election board member confirmed to Bob Segall.

"We are considering extending hours by one hour," Carolyn VandeWiele said. "Voting has been extremely heavy, much higher than we thought, much more along the lines of a general election, not a midterm election. We are printing ballots steadily and have been getting them to precincts as quickly as possible."

She said they expect to have a decision one way or the other by 5:30 p.m.

All precincts were initially supplied with roughly 150-200 ballots. Election officials have been forced to print "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of ballots on top of what each precinct already had," according to someone at the election central office. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

"We're printing them as fast as we can. We've had runners going out all day. I think we really underestimated the number of people who would be voting today," the worker said.

James Jenkins, an IU sophomore from Indianapolis, said he first went to vote at Indiana Memorial Union on IU campus at noon. He tells us he waited an hour only to be told they didn't have a ballot for him to vote. He went to get lunch and returned 2 hours later but they still didn't have a ballot for him to vote. Eventually, he was able to cast a ballot around 4 p.m.

"How do you run out of ballots for an election?" he said. "I don't understand."

4:25 p.m. - We have crews at the watch parties for both of the major political parties, ready to bring you live coverage all evening on-air and online.

3:10 p.m. - The Johnson County clerk says the election board will not be asking for an order keeping the polls open past 6 p.m. despite hours-long delays in voting. While there were widespread problems this morning, a spokesperson said he'd visited two precincts this afternoon and lines were moving smoothly again.

"They had gotten back to normal, the lines were normal, everything's working great, they were getting them through real fast, so I think we're okay there."

While the election board doesn't plan to keep polls open later, the clerk's office is looking into adding some more machines at the precincts to help facilitate more voters.

County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec blamed the trouble on its election vendor's server not being able to handle the traffic as voting ramped up.

Election Systems & Software provides voting equipment and support to about a third of the nation's voting jurisdictions, including Johnson County. ES&S released a statement saying, "The issue in Johnson County, Indiana has been resolved, resulting in faster check-in times for voters. Earlier in the day, the poll book, which is used to check in voters but is not related to voting machines themselves, was running slowly. The poll book operation is now significantly improved. We apologize to voters and to elections officials in Johnson County, Indiana for longer wait times than expected, and we thank everyone for their patience."

1:21 p.m. - The Johnson County clerk says, "This is the worst election I've ever dealt with."

The clerk has not called for a court order yet to keep polls open for voters that left or aren't coming out because of the long delays.

The clerk also says this is a nationwide issue, affecting other counties in Indiana as well. Johnson County seems to be the hardest hit.

12:45 p.m. - Voting is back up to speed at Johnson County polling locations.

12:30 p.m. - 13 Investigates has learned the voting system in Johnson County seems to be back up and running smoothly at some locations. Systems are being rebooted and it is believed the problem will be fixed.

12:20 p.m. - A polling inspector in Johnson County tells 13 Investigates the issue was with connecting to the poll book. Essentially, poll workers were having long delays or not able to verify someone's identity so they could cast a ballot.

The delays began around 8:30 a.m. and got worse. By 11 a.m. delays checking in voters were last 5-7 minutes or longer.

13 Investigates is told there are vendors on site working on the system, which is "overwhelmed."

Our reporters have seen people leaving.

11:55 a.m. - Johnson County voting is taking place at a trickling pace due to software issues. Some precincts that halted lines have resumed moving again. Voters are giving up and leaving lines in some locations.

11:35 a.m. - Johnson County is reporting technical issues with its election software. One polling location is reporting a two-hour wait.

Long lines forming in Johnson County due to reported election software issues on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Jennie Runevitch)
Voters waited more than hour to cast their ballots at Fall Creek Twp. Precinct 1 in Fishers at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Kyle Thomas)
WTHR image by Alyssa Raymond
Greg Pence (R) votes in Columbus, IN November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Anna Carrera)
Early morning voters line up in Greenwood Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Alyssa Raymond)
Marion County ballot bins for all 600 precincts on November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Carlos Diaz)
Lines are long at a Johnson County polling place.
Lines are long at a Johnson County polling place.
Mick Armbruster at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi Service Center voting site in Indianapolis. "Vote against the liars and the people who love them," said Armbruster.
A software issue slows down the voting at Greenwood Community Church voting site. Kimberly Swank uses her time on line to knit a scarf. However, after a two and a half hour wait, Kimberly says that the scarf was about to become a blanket.
Casey Bales with her five year old daughter Emerson, sign in at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi Service Center voting site in Indianapolis. Today was Emerson's first time to the polls - she didn't vote.
Voters review sample ballots while waiting in line to vote in Marion County.
Poll worker Angela Smith Jones helps voters find their precinct at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi Service Center in Indianapolis.
There are two voting machines as a line forms at the Masonic Lodge in Carmel
Heidi Jennings of Lebanon leans into the wind for her friend and former co-worker Lori Schein.
Voters come and go at the Freedom Church polling place in Lebanon, IN.
Tom Buchanan campaigns for his mom, Pam Buchanan, running for Judge in Boone Co. as an Independent.

11:20 a.m. - If you can hit the polls now, many precincts are hitting a lull between the morning and lunchtime rushes.

10:45 a.m. - An update from the Blackford County Clerk's office reports 2,943 voters have been checked in and have machine voted. This represents 29-percent of the registered voters in Blackford County. There are currently 175 voter requests for absentee by mail ballots, and 145 of those absentee by mail ballots have been returned at this time. Another 50 voters have requested to vote by traveling board.

There are 8,143 total registered voters in Blackford County.

10:30 a.m. - Greg Pence, running for Indiana's 6th congressional district, voted Tuesday morning. Our Anna Carrera caught up with him after he did his part to win a congressional seat.

10:15 a.m. - It took Scott Swan less than a half hour to perform his civic duty this morning.

10:00 a.m. - Depending on your polling place, reported waits have varied from minutes to more than an hour in Fishers this morning.

Voters waited more than hour to cast their ballots at Fall Creek Twp. Precinct 1 in Fishers at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Kyle Thomas)

Reports from 9:20 a.m. - Looks like the early rush to vote is giving way to a workday lull in some places. PRO TIP: Remember you need your ID!

8:25 a.m. - Long lines reported in Fishers, too.

7:40 a.m. - Poll workers have had their share of machine glitches at various locations this morning. No down time as voters are casting their ballots before heading to work.

7:25 a.m. - It would not be a normal election day without some type of malfunction at a polling place. So far, problems have been minor and fixes have been quick.

7:10 a.m. - Long lines this morning indicated many will be standing outside in the elements today while they wait to vote, so Lindsey Monroe has posted an updated Election Day weather forecast. She calls for a windy day with an afternoon high in the low 50s.

6:55 a.m. - In Greenwood, Alyssa Raymond reports the polling place she has been monitoring is now reporting an 80 minute wait to vote.

6:30 a.m. - Lines are long in Carmel.

6:15 a.m. Lines are moving toward voting booths and polling machines throughout central Indiana.

6:00 a.m. The polls are open!

The 600 green boxes representing the 600 precincts in Marion County. Workers are organizing the absentee ballots in the green box that corresponds with each early voter’s correct precinct. It will take longer to sort all of the absentee ballots than Election Day ballots.

Green ballot boxes represent all 600 voting precincts in Marion County on Tuesday morning, November 6, 2018. (WTHR image by Carlos Diaz)

5:30 a.m. - Expect heavy traffic at the polls today, based on the record-setting early voting numbers around the state. In the 2014 Midterm Election, just over 6,700 people voted early in Marion County. This past Sunday alone, almost 8,000 people voted early in Marion County - a record for an early voting day.

4:00 a.m. - Take an umbrella if you're voting this morning. Chuck Lofton's Live Doppler 13 Sunrise forecast calls for rain and wind this morning.

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