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
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.”