Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Clerk warns voters to not put off mailing absentee ballots

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County Clerk 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 results.

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 How

Bailey reported 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.

Voters in 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.

Assistant Elections 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.

Other Business

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 of October.

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.


Posted 8/21/2020





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