Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Secretary of State Rokita speaks to Rotary Club on election measures

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With the Indiana Legislature’s adjournment fast approaching, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita put in a plug for citizens making last-minute appeals to lawmakers to urge support for several election reform bills.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Chesterton Rotary Club meeting, Rokita touted several pending proposals, including one that would allow counties to establish Vote Centers and another that would require local candidates to post financial disclosure forms online if contributions exceed $10,000.

These proposals are contained in bills that “are on the ropes,” Rokita said, though he added that he doesn’t know exactly why the bills are in trouble, since the proposals are neither Democrat nor Republican ideas but efforts to help keep Indiana competitive. The Legislature is set to adjourn April 29.

Rokita said he’s very proud that Indiana recently celebrated the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln but lamented how “we’re still voting as if he’s on the ballot” by voting in a precinct system and by comparing voter signatures in a paper poll book.

One of the election reforms Rokita supports is the voluntary establishment of Vote Centers, which would replace the traditional method of voting in precincts by setting up consolidated sites so that people could vote anywhere in their county. In Porter County, a committee has been formed to study the idea; Rokita commended Porter County Clerk Pam Fish for her role in studying the project for this county.

With Indiana’s statewide voter registration system, a vote center could be established anywhere due to the technology. In the past, each county maintained its own voter registration list, often in very different ways. Now, the statewide list allows updated information from multiple jurisdictions -- voters who die or are convicted of a felony can now be purged much more easily due to the technology. The statewide list also means that poll books can go electronic, with voter names and other identifying information checked electronically instead of through paper books.

Four Indiana counties have been pilot counties for vote centers, and Rokita said in each one, the costs for running elections have been cut by about half.

One concern that’s been raised about vote centers locally is that it could make it more inconvenient for voters, especially older voters accustomed to voting in the same location. Rokita emphasized the importance of keeping vote centers optional only, with each county deciding for itself if the consolidation would work for them. But he also said that the pilot counties have seen no problems with voter confusion or inconvenience due to the new centers. He also noted that voters would still have the option of casting an absentee or early vote.

Rokita also put in a plug for a legislative measure that would allow voters to make changes to their registration online. If voters can make these changes themselves, he said, it would cut down on the work involved at the county level.

He also urged support for a proposal requiring online financial campaign reporting for local candidates if their contributions exceed $10,000. He noted that this reporting requirement already exists for state officials.

When asked about election changes that he can foresee in the future, Rokita noted that Indiana handled about 3,000 ballots via e-mail from troops overseas in the last election. He said he can envision Internet voting becoming more common, but added that as long as election officials require a paper trail for ballots, all-Internet voting would be impossible.

Rokita also pitched his office’s “Donate for Democracy” project, in which poll workers can give up their normal election-day pay by donating it to a charity of their choice.

Rokita, a Munster native, said he travels to every county in Indiana at least once per year. He says he does so because of his desire to talk with community leaders about what he wants to accomplish in the 20 months remaining in his term. With so much still to do, 20 months “might as well be tomorrow,” he said.

Rokita emphasized that the Rotarians are indeed community leaders, part of the small percentage of the populace interested in civic duty. “You’re needed,” he said.


Posted 4/23/2009






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