The Porter County
Election Board voted to approve two former Voter Registration employees as
deputies in the new Elections Division at a meeting Friday.
The Board voted
4-1, with member and chair of the Porter County Democrat Party Jeff
Chidester dissenting, to approve Jeannie King and Sharon Slusher as deputies
to Elections Director and Assistant Director Sundae Schoon and Becky Rauch.
questioned how many applicants there were for the deputy positions. County
Clerk Jessica Bailey reported King and Slusher were the only candidates to
turn in completed applications with letters of recommendation. King and
Slusher each have more than a decade of experience working on elections in
Bailey got approval
from the County Council to hire two deputies after a new state law mandated
changes to Porter County elections that included forming a new, expanded
Board of Elections and Voter Registration (which dissolved the old Voter
Registration office), hiring a director and assistant director to run
elections, and making all election officials subject to the anti-nepotism
policy set forth in the County’s employee handbook.
The new law was a
response to the 2018 general election in Porter County being rife with
problems, including thousands of uncounted absentee ballots left when the
polls closed, poll worker complaints, 13 polling places opening up to two
hours late, and results delayed for three days.
A consequence of
the new law was that Kathy Kozuszek, formerly the Democrat Director of Voter
Registration, cannot work on Porter County elections since Chidester, her
husband, has appointing authority over the new Board. Though Chidester had
appointing authority over Kozuszek in her former position as well, he was
not the party chair who first appointed her in 2001.
himself to the newly formed Board July 1. He also cast the lone vote against
hiring Schoon, who worked opposite Kozuszek in the old VR office. Three of
the four former VR employees have now been hired for the new division.
filed a motion in a federal district court on July 5 for a preliminary
injunction to reinstate Kozuszek. Kozuszek’s attorney argues in court
documents that she was “abruptly fired after 19 years of service.”
The injunction is
part of a larger lawsuit in which Kozuszek alleges she was denied overtime
pay and that the County stripped the Voter Registration office of its
election responsibilities in retaliation for her seeking overtime pay.