Jessica Bailey urged residents planning to vote absentee by mail not to wait
until the last minute.
Bailey reported at
Thursday’s Porter County Election Board meeting that the Elections &
Registration Office has already received more than 2,700 requests for
absentee ballots for the 2020 general election. The number fast approaches
the total number of absentees in the 2016 general, 3,166, but is dwarfed, as
of yet, by the 12,972 absentee ballots cast in the 2020 primary amid
emergency orders spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bailey said staff
are emphasizing that voters have to mail their ballots back as soon as
possible. “If you’re waiting until the last minute, that’s not going to give
the post office enough time,” she said. “They [ballots] have to be back to
us by noon on election day.”
People across the
nation have experienced mail delays recently amid controversial changes to
the postal service under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Even before those
changes, late absentee ballots cost 203 Porter County voters their say in
the 2020 primary, Bailey reported at the time of the certification of
The first round of
ballots will be sent Sept. 18.“If we have your application by then, that’s
when it will be sent out,” she said.
Voters can also
hand-deliver their ballots to the Elections & Registration Office, but
Elections Director Sundae Schoon noted voters opting for hand-delivery can
only deliver their own ballots or ballots from others in their households.
“It can’t be the neighbor’s or your friend’s,” Schoon said.
Board member David
Bengs asked how early Bailey plans to start the County’s central count
machine to handle the likely large number of absentee ballots. Bailey said
she plans to start counting at 7 a.m. on election day. During the primary,
staff waited until after the noon deadline in order to count all absentee
ballots at once, but now Bailey feels everyone is more comfortable using the
machine to start the count early and update it later. “I think everybody
wanted to make sure there was a check and balance. Now we’ve used it in
three elections,” she added.
Bailey reported she
wasn’t able to rent an additional central count machine in case of high
turnout, but Schoon said the County’s DS-200 machines can be used to
backstop the central counter. “We put in for more DS-200s with sticks that
are programmed for every precinct,” she said.
Voting Where and
some polling places have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other
issues. In Duneland, affected precincts include Liberty 1, Westchester 17,
and Westchester 6.
Voters in Liberty 1
will vote with Liberty 2, 5, and 6, at the Liberty Intermediate School
Auditorium, 50 W. 900 N., Liberty Township, due to construction at the
Liberty Township Fire Department.
Westchester 6, which comprises Dune Acres, will vote at the Porter Fire
Department, 550 W. Beam Street, Porter. Voters in Westchester 17 will
continue to vote in Portage, at Ethel Jones Elementary School, 2374 McCool
Road, as they have the last few elections due to construction.
Meanwhile, the same
five early vote locations available in the primary will be available for the
general election. They are: Chesterton Town Hall, 726 Broadway, Chesterton;
Union Township Fire Station No.2, 267 N. 600 W, Valparaiso; Porter County
Administration Center, 155 Indiana Avenue, suite 102A, Valparaiso; Hebron
Community Center, 611 N. Main Street, Hebron; North County Annex, 3560
Willowcreek Road, Portage.
Early voting will
be available from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays, and on the two Saturdays offered. Hours will be extended from 8:30
a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Board also
approved locations for the Vote Mobile, with dates and hours to be
determined. The Vote Mobile, which the County acquired just this year and
used for the first time in the primary, will visit the Luke gas station in
Burns Harbor, Jamestown Apartments in Valparaiso, Oak Tree Village in
Portage, Haven Hollow Park in South Haven, and the Kouts Library in an
effort to make early voting more convenient.
Director Becky Rauch reported people got excited about the Vote Mobile
during the primary and are asking about it again. “There’s a lot of people
wanting to know where it’s going to be and when,” she said.
In other business,
in-person poll worker education classes will be held at the Expo Center to
allow social distancing, Bailey said. They’ll take place the last two weeks
The Board also
heard a rare update on campaign finance reports: every candidate is in
compliance, as of yesterday, Schoon and Rauch reported. Board Attorney
Monica Conrad praised the pair for their work. In the past year, they’ve
taken a proactive approach to handling delinquencies and educating
candidates about proper filing. “What they’ve done together to kind of redo
that system is phenomenal,” Conrad said.