For the record,
early voting for the upcoming County Primary Elections will be
available at Chesterton Town Hall, 726 Broadway, starting on Tuesday, April
There will be
another early voting center at the North County Government Complex, 3560
Willowcreek Rd., in Portage. Both locations will have the same hours -- 8:30
a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, April 8 to May 5 at noon, and on
Saturdays, April 26 and May 3.
This year, however,
there will be no early voting offered at the Porter County Voters
Registration Office located in the County Administration Building in
Valparaiso, or anywhere else in the central or southern portions the county.
The County Election
Board met Friday to finalize its decision on early voting after the previous
week’s meeting heard the concern that holding voting inside the Voters
Registration Office, where County Clerk Democrat candidate Kathy Kozuszek
works as the Democratic Director, would open the possibility of
The same concern
goes for Kozusek’s Republican opponent, incumbent County Clerk Karen Martin,
because she has an office at the Portage complex where early voting would be
held. Martin is running for a second term.
President John Evans, R-North, had suggested opening another room in the
Administration Center for voting and to use the Health Department space in
One location of the
county clerk of the circuit court’s office must be open for early and
absentee voting, board attorney Ethan Lowe said. To establish any satellite
location requires a unanimous vote from the three-member board, he said.
Katrina Spence, who
is filling in as proxy for absent Democratic board representative J.J.
Stankiewicz until May, opposed having any space in the Administration
Building except for the Voters Registration Office. She was the sole no vote
in a motion by Republican board members Martin and chairman David Bengs to
use Room 307 in the building.
Bengs and Martin
felt that it would be a violation of the law to have early voting in the
Voters Registration office because it would take place where a candidate is
present. They both voted against the motion to have Voters Registration as
an early voting location.
With no other
suggestions, the board forfeited having early voting in the Administration
Building. But it did end up voting 3-0 in favor of a previous meeting’s
motion naming Chesterton Town Hall as a site and also to move the Portage
location to the health department offices at the North County Complex.
The action drew ire
from a large gathering of Democrats lined up in support of Kozuszek who was
not present at the meeting. Among those in attendance were State Sen. Karen
Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and County
Council members Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large.
Although open to
the public, the meeting did not include a public comment portion.
Parties argue about
County Democratic Committee Chair Jeff Chidister argued with Evans over the
laws regarding electioneering, or the persuasion of voters in a political
campaign. Chidester contended that simply having the candidate around the
voting area does not constitute as electioneering while Evans argued the
Evans, along with
County Republican Chair Michael Simpson, said state statute does not allow a
candidate in a voting place except to vote and that electioneering cannot
take place within 50 feet of a poll. Just a simple glare from Kozuszek could
influence the decision of a voter, Evans said.
Chidester said the
Republicans are “trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” and that “99
percent of the voters” don’t know what Kozuszek or Martin look like.
that Kozuszek has shown commitment to fair and honest elections continually
during her 15 years working in the Voters Registration office. He said
Kozuszek was working there when she ran as a candidate for Porter Town
Council in 2003 and no one raised a concern about electioneering.
“There was never a
question about it then,” he said.
He said that if it
were discovered that a Democratic worker committed an act of electioneering,
no matter how great or small, they would be fired on the spot.
“I take these
elections very seriously. We want to have integrity and for the process to
be transparent,” Chidester said.
The board ended up
not discussing the matter of Martin having the locks changed last Monday
after Kozuszek reported a possible theft in the Voters Registration office.
however ask Martin after the meeting if all employees would get new keys to
which she replied in the affirmative. Martin has been unlocking the doors
herself in the morning to let the employees in.
In other business
matters, the board split 2-1 to purchase 15 electronic poll books and four
printers from Electronic Systems & Software to be used in the upcoming May 6
primary, the same vendor the County already is in contract with for voting
Martin said at the
March 7 meeting that the new e-poll books and printers can eliminate
printing of extraneous ballots that end up being tossed out. She said that
in the 2010 and 2012 primary and general elections, the combined total spent
on “wasted” ballots was $84,974.
E-poll books can
scan a person’s driver’s license or photo ID, verify signatures, and assign
a ballot more quickly than a poll worker could look it up in paper-based
Martin and Bengs
said that ballots could be ordered according to the turnout figures for each
polling place and if a location runs out, the printer will be ready to make
against the purchase saying she did not know enough about the equipment and
referred to a state law that says the number of ballots delivered must be
100 percent equal to the registered voters in a precinct.
But Martin and
Bengs asserted that ballots can be printed with the e-poll books and printer
system ensuring that each voter will be able to receive a ballot.
Bengs said the new
equipment has been certified by the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and
other counties in the state have used e-poll books in past elections.