A clash between two
members of different parties on Porter County’s Election Board on Friday
ended peacefully as the board agreed to study the possibility of having
voting centers replace precinct voting locations in Porter County.
The study was
suggested by Board Chairman and Republican representative David Bengs, as
County Clerk Karen Martin, a Republican, and Democratic board member J.J.
Stankiewicz were arguing about Martin’s plan to cut workers and ballots to
save the county some money.
a proposal she made prior to May’s primary election to reduce the number of
poll workers and use electronic poll books to print ballots that could
potentially save $30,000. The proposal did not pass then as Stankiewicz said
that the use of e-poll books and fewer ballots could cause problems for both
voters and poll workers.
“I don’t put a
dollar on a vote. You do,” Stankiewicz told Martin again Friday.
Martin said that
with voter turnout at just 11 percent in the primary, ballots were tossed
out by the thousands. “We’ve got to start to look at ways to handle this,”
she told her colleagues.
back saying money was wasted on purchasing 15 e-poll book devices which were
never used in the primary election. Martin said the purchases were not in
vain because the devices can be updated and used in future elections once
the technology is more applicable.
setup could further confuse voters about where they go to vote, Stankiewicz
said, while Martin argued implementing changes would make it easier for
voters and election officials.
“If it ain’t broke,
don’t fix it,” said Stankiewicz.
Bengs mediated the
argument by sharing his thoughts and research on voting centers which
counties like Elkhart, similar in size to Porter County, have introduced and
seen positive results.
The biggest merit
of voting centers is that voters can cast ballots at any location so there
would be no confusion about where they should go, Bengs said. Consolidating
precinct polling locations into centers will require fewer workers and money
will be saved by the efficiency, he said.
about this,” he said. “This isn’t just a positive decision. It’s the right
Bengs said due to
the time limits, voting centers should not be attempted for this November,
but the board should “plant the seed” for discussion in getting them
established in Porter County. Once the election board casts a unanimous vote
to go forward, Bengs said the plan would need majority votes from both the
County Council and County Commissioners. Centers then could be set up in a
matter of weeks, he said.
If the voting
centers end up being a “disaster” in Porter County, the board can revert
back to the old system, so there is not much risk, said Bengs. He did say
however that there is a lot of research that goes into configuring voting
centers and it won’t be an easy process for the election board.
Martin said the
board needs to be “proactive, not reactive.” She said the design would be
similar to early voting which has been going on in the county for a number
of years. Anyone who wishes to early vote can get a ballot for their
precinct regardless of which early voting site they use, she said.
The use of e-poll
books at voting centers will be a plus, by scanning a voter’s driver’s
license or ID the machine will automatically know what ballot that voter is
to get, Martin said.
Stankiewicz said he
would be open to hearing further of the merits.
Voting centers have
been advocated on occasion for the past five years or so by both Republicans
and Democratics in Porter County. One longtime supporter has been
Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who has plugged the move because
of the potential savings.
Bengs said the
Secretary of State’s website,