Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Clerk eyes utility vehicle for mobile voting

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Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey is thinking of buying a utility vehicle for the Elections and Registration Department, and one of its uses could be mobile voting.

Bailey reported at yesterday’s Election Board meeting that the Elections and Registration Department could use its own utility vehicle. The Department borrowed vehicles from other County departments earlier this year during the primary and getting machines to the Elections booth at the County Fair. They’ve also recently rented vans for $2,500 a month to transport early voting machines and to get machines to and from poll worker education classes.

Bailey said she has the money in her budget to buy the vehicle this year, and if she begins the purchase process soon, funds from this year could be encumbered to pay for the vehicle next year.

Board member Jeff Chidester asked how much money is available. Bailey estimated there will be about $70,000 of “use it or lose it” money left in her budget after this year’s expenses. “It’s already allotted for our department. We’re not requesting excess funds. We would just want to use the funds already in our budget,” she said.

Not only would it lessen the burden of asking other departments for help and renting vehicles for transport, Bailey said the right type of vehicle could be used as a future mobile voting center. “If we had it approved for the 2020 election, we would be one of the only counties, if not the only county, in Indiana that has this,” she added.

As long as a mobile voting center is advertised the same way as other early voting locations, Bailey said a bipartisan team would be free to take it to places that are more convenient for voters who work odd schedules, such as store parking lots, football games, or other local events.

Bailey said she’s going to look into a vehicle similar to the small buses commonly used by senior centers. Ideally it would have a wheelchair lift for ADA accessibility and be tall enough for voters to comfortably stand inside. The budget going forward would include funds for maintaining and insuring the vehicle, and Bailey said she might approach the Highway Department about storing it.

Kane County, Ill. is the nearest locale to implement a mobile voting center, according to Bailey, who said she got the idea while researching ways to engage more voters. She said though early voting improves access, it can still be inconvenient for voters who commute, shift workers, and others.

“We want people to have a voice in what’s going on in their communities, but the typical schedule doesn’t always work for everyone,” Bailey said. “Everyone needs to go to the grocery store. Hopefully when you’re there, we can be there too, and then you’ve done your civic duty, and it didn’t take away from any of your other responsibilities.”


Posted 10/18/2019




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