Porter County Clerk
Jessica Bailey reported at the recent Election Board meeting that she’s
planning to host extended hours at early voting sites and offer five early
voting locations instead of four for the 2020 election.
Bailey started the
meeting Thursday afternoon with a moment of silence for former Board
Chairman David Welter, who passed away unexpectedly last month. Welter, 59,
had been on the Election Board for just under a year, and was a professor at
Valparaiso University’s School of Law.
“His passing in
December surprised us all, and we’d just like to honor him and his time on
Board with a moment
of silence,” Bailey said.
Bailey then began
her report, and said she hopes to expand early voting in preparation for a
large turnout in 2020. Typically, Porter County has had four early voting
sites: Hebron Town Hall, the Porter County Administration Building, the
North County Government Complex, and Chesterton Town Hall.
confirmation from the Union Township Fire Chief, Union Township Fire Station
No.2 will be the fifth early voting site. The site has been a polling place
before, Bailey said.
There will be two
Saturday early voting dates as usual, but hours will be extended on Tuesdays
and Thursdays. Those days, voters can vote early between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30
p.m. Hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will remain the same: 8:30
a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In addition to
early voting changes, the Board approved Bailey to permanently change three
polling locations. Only one is in Duneland. Westchester Precinct 17, which
voted at Ethel Jones Elementary School in Portage in 2019, will now vote at
Ethel Jones permanently.
The Board held off
on any approvals until staff gets the OK from Union Township Fire Station
No. 2 and the Council reconsiders the purchase of a special purpose vehicle
Bailey wants to use for voter registration drives and potentially early
Mobile Vote Center/
Bailey updated the
Board on her quest to acquire a special purpose vehicle Elections &
Registration can use for transporting equipment, hosting voter registration
drives, and even a mobile early voting center. Elections & Registration
having a vehicle will help the department avoid pricey rentals or borrowing
the Coroner’s van. Bailey said insuring the vehicle, which would resemble a
senior center van and be wheelchair accessible, would cost $1,600 a year.
Bailey had enough
money left in her budget at the end of 2019 to cover the cost of the
vehicle, approximately $62,000, but the County Council was skeptical of the
plan and asked for more information. The funds Bailey had left over have
since been rolled back into the general fund, but she could access them by
requesting an additional appropriation.
Board member Jeff
Chidester asked how the Council feels about the proposal. “I think the
appreciate the time and effort it has taken to look into this,” Bailey said,
but she added that some members see the value of using the vehicle for
transport and aren’t keen on the idea of a mobile vote center.
Chidester said the
idea is about access and having a mobile vote center won’t redirect any
resources. “We’re not gonna rob Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “This is gonna
be a big election, so we want to make it as voter friendly as possible with
as little congestion as possible at every polling place.”
to approve the proposal. The Board obliged, with new member Paul Rausch
abstaining on account of his not being present for earlier discussions on
Bailey invited the
Board members to support her at the next Council meeting where she will be
asking for a funds transfer and approval to purchase the vehicle again.
taking the vehicle to Haven Hollow Park in South Haven, Lakeland Park in
Burns Harbor, and Pennsy Park in Kouts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays
in April if the purchase and mobile vote center idea is approved. Bailey
hopes taking early voting to parks could be more user-friendly for busy
parents and voters who may have to walk to cast their vote.
reorganized, electing Paul Rausch, of Chesterton, as chairman and Ethan Lowe
as Vice-chairman. Monica Conrad was also reappointed as the Board’s
appointed to fill Welter’s seat shortly after Welter’s passing. Rausch is
retired from Arcelor Mittal’s New Carlisle plant, and said serving on the
Election Board is important work and a good opportunity for him to help the
“I’ve always been
interested in politics,” Rausch said. “The idea of free and fair elections
is important to be and always has been.” The election process should be
efficient so Porter County residents are confident and secure in their vote,
Rausch said, “That would be the reward.”
Bailey reported the
second candidate information session was a success, with attendees learning
hands-on how to note expenses and donations in campaign finance reports.
Bailey said she got compliments about the lecture as well. “I think they
were realizing that filing their reports correctly takes a little more time
and effort, and you shouldn’t wait until the eleventh hour.”
A video of the
session will be posted on the Porter County Government YouTube channel,
where those interested can also find the video of the first session.
In other campaign
finance business, annual campaign finance reports were due last week.
Director and Assistant Director of Elections Sundae Schoon and Becky Rauch
reported not all candidates have filed.
“A good portion of
the people who are delinquent don’t realize that if they didn’t raise any
money or if they lost, they still have to file,” Rauch said. Rauch also said
candidates should take care to provide an email address that they check
frequently when filing.
local office are not required to report campaign donations if they’re
seeking a position that pays less than $5,000 per year; however, Rauch said
candidates who have started a committee and filed in the past must continue
filing regardless of pay, unless they officially disband their committees.
The Board adopted
resolutions to approve the department’s inventory list, the use of e-poll
books, and the hiring of 16- and 17-year old poll workers (provided they
have a grade point average of at least 3.0). Bailey said she’s looking for
600 poll workers this year.
rescheduled its February meeting. It meets next Feb. 18 at noon in Room 102A
of the County Administration Building.
Bailey made a
reminder that petitions of nomination to run for Governor are due Feb. 4.
Filing for local office ends at noon Feb. 7. The deadline to withdraw
candidacy is Feb. 10, and the deadline to challenge someone’s candidacy is