Chesterton Tribune



County election complaints prompt call for public meeting

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The Porter County Election Board will hold a public meeting to address complaints from voters and poll workers related to the 2018 primary election.

The Board met on Friday to certify the election results and decide the fate of 39 provisional ballots. But at the beginning of the meeting, Member J.J. Stankiewicz handed out a written motion to set a future meeting of the Board where members of the public can freely deliver written complaints and live testimony regarding their concerns about the election process.

The 2018 primary was the first election run by Porter County Clerk Karen Martin. In previous years, the legwork has been done by Porter County Voter Registration and the Election Board.

State officials notified the Board in March that Porter County is the only county in Indiana where Voter Registration directors administer elections.

Falling in line, the Board opted to change Porter Countys operations to fit Indiana code. The change was partly in response to a letter sent to board members and other officials by the Democratic Director of Voter Registration, Kathy Kozuszek, stating that she refused to handle elections going forward because Porter Countys methods violate state statutes.

Now that the primary is over, Stankiewicz said hes gotten numerous complaints about how the election was run, including some from elected officials and their relatives. Stankiewicz cited poll worker error as a major factor, saying I dont know how deep it goes.

Kozuszek added that there were also some complaints about ADA compliance at polling locations.

Kozuszek, who is also the Vice-Chairperson for the Porter County Democratic Central Committee, reported that people have complained to the Voter Registration office, sometimes five in a day. Chairman for the Porter County Democratic Central Committee Jeffery Chidester presented a press release supporting Stankiewiczs request for a public meeting and listing five complaints.

Chidester alleged in the press release:

*  That Congressman Pete Viscloskys Chief of Staffs sister-in-law was unable to vote at the North County Government Complex due to poll worker error in which she was given the wrong ballot.

*  That a voter was purged from the voter rolls in 2017 by mistake because he had the same name as someone else who was to be purged.

*  That an absentee ballot was printed for every resident in a nursing home in Porter County and traveling election officials were responsible for determining competency this year. This is not common practice in Porter County, and it resulted in one relative of a nursing home resident calling and saying that the resident should not have voted due to Alzheimers compromising her understanding of voting.

*  That a voter who requested an absentee ballot several times never got one. When she tried to vote in person, her license was expired, and she had to vote using a provisional ballot.

*  And, finally, that the election was partisan and dominated by Republican officials who controlled the poll worker education classes and kept Democrat appointees out of the loop.

Election Board President David Bengs was receptive to the suggestion of a public meeting. The Board voted unanimously to commit to holding such a meeting. A date and time for the meeting has not yet been scheduled because Bengs suggested that people who have already reached out with written complaints be contacted about what days they would be available to appear. If we have individuals who are concerned about the election process, we want to hear from them, he said.

Of the 39 provisional ballots, 20 were counted and 19 were discarded. Martin, Kozuszek, Stankiewicz, Bengs, and Republican Director of Voter Registration Sundae Schoon decided together which ballots would be counted based on the circumstances of the vote and Indiana code. The voter cited in Chidesters complaints who did not receive an absentee ballot had her provisional vote counted following her delivery of valid identification to the voter registration office. The election results were certified by Martin, Bengs, and Stankiewicz following the decisions on the provisional ballots.

In all, 17,023 votes were cast in the primary in Porter County for a voter turnout of 14.05 percent. 50.77 percent of votes were cast by Republicans and 49.23 percent by Democrats. Indiana requires primary voters to choose either a Democrat or Republican party ballot. Porter County has 121,134 registered voters.


Posted 5/21/2018




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