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County Clerk says Porter County would save on printing using e-poll books in election

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Clerk Karen Martin is making the push for her fellow County Election Board members to lease four electronic poll books and printer with vendor Election Systems & Software to halt spending on unused ballots.

She also wants to cut down on the number of poll workers where possible, which she said would net $20,755 in savings for the County this election year.

At last Friday’s election board meeting, Martin alleged the County has “wasted” $85,000 since the 2010 primary elections by ordering and printing thousands of ballots that ended up being thrown away because of lower voter turnout.

According to figures Martin presented, the Voters Registration office ordered 158,250 ballots for the 2012 primary election even when there were only 110,649 registered voters, possibly in anticipation of a repeat of the record turnouts seen in the 2008 presidential election when the County ran out of ballots. But only 23,571 ballots were cast in that primary and 134,670 were unused, a cost of $49,831 and yet 121,450 were ordered for the November 2012 general elections, Martin said.

“It doesn’t make sense in the big picture,” she said.

In 2010, the cost of unused ballots totaled approximately $23,000 and $62,000 in 2012, according to Martin.

Republican Director of the Voters Registration office Sundae Schoon said she was surprised when she saw those figures.

What makes e-poll books desirable, Martin said, are their ability to print out additional ballots for a precinct without having to order paper copies and if one of the county’s 79 voting locations were to run low on stock, more ballots could be printed and delivered fairly quickly. That means the County won’t have to order an abundance of ballots ahead of time.

E-poll books are also efficient in that they can scan a person’s driver’s license and verify voter identification and ballot assignment more quickly than a poll clerk consulting the paper-based poll books, Martin said.

The Indiana Secretary of State’s office certified ES&S’s ExpressPoll e-poll book earlier this year.

Martin said it would be $7,612 to lease the four machines and the printer this year and she plans to ask the Indiana State Board of Accounts if there is a way the election board in its budget could pay for the lease itself out of its own budget line items. She said she would have gone to ask the County Council this month for the appropriation but it does not meet next until April, which will be too late because ballots would need to be printed by then.

In addition, Martin asked her colleagues to consider her “more conservative approach” of using fewer poll clerks, judges and inspectors for certain polling locations depending on the number of active voters and voter turnout results from 2012.

For example, Jackson Twp. School which is the polling location for the five Jackson precincts had three inspectors, four judges and eight clerks which were compensated a total of $1,950 according to Martin’s figures. By using two inspectors, four judges, and four clerks, the cost would be $1,150, a savings of $800.

At Liberty Twp. Intermediate School, Martin proposes reducing the number of clerks from eight to two, judges from six to two and inspectors from three to one, garnering a savings of $1,625.

The entire County, Martin said, under her recommendation could see a savings of $20,755 in this year’s primary and general elections.

“This is an area I think needs to be addressed,” she said. She also made reference to the County Council’s plea for departments to search for ways to reduce spending given a potential $5 million shortfall in the General Fund this year.

Martin boasted she has cut $250,000 out of her Clerk budgets during the three years she’s been in office.

The election board will revisit the topic of funding for the e-poll books at its meeting this Friday, March 14.

 

Posted 3/11/2014