Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.”

Carolyn VanddeWiele, a Democrat who chairs Monroe County’s three-member election board, led the group at its meeting last Thursday through its routine final preparations for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

Part of that prep included some announcements of key dates. Oct. 7 is the last day to register to vote in Bloomington municipal elections. And the first day for early voting is Oct. 21.

Both main items on the agenda reflected the fact that this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington will be held in just two out of the city’s council districts—District 2 and District 3.

One agenda item, approval of the official legal notice, called out District 2 and District 3 as the only districts where elections will be held. That’s because of an election board decision made at its Aug. 1 meeting. The board based its decision on the fact that the city-wide races for mayor, clerk and councilmember at large, are all uncontested—a situation that’s unprecedented in Bloomington—and the races in the other four districts are uncontested.

Sharp criticism of the board’s decision came at its Thursday meeting—from Charlotte Zietlow, a former county commissioner and city councilmember. Zietlow’s legacy in Monroe County politics can be traced at least to the early 1970s. She led off with her remarks, reported separately by The Beacon, by saying, “I come here … to complain, I’m sorry. But usually people came to complain to me when I was in this room.”

The other agenda item on Thursday confirmed polling locations. There are nine to cover just the 13 of 54 precincts, where elections will be held. VanddeWiele asked election supervisor Karen Wheeler how the non-election in most precincts was being publicized. She also asked Wheeler if any arraignment was being made for locations where voters would normally show up to vote.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Wheeler told VanddeWiele that for polling sites where there’s nothing to vote on, a person would generally be staffed there. “At the very least we’ll have a sign,” she said, but wanted to have a person, because a sign can blow away, and “we don’t want anybody feeling frustrated,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler gave a few different resources for checking voter registration and where to vote. The state of Indiana maintains a site where voter registration status can be confirmed. The election board’s page on the Monroe County Website has voting information.  A separate website monroecountyvoters.us serves as a kind of clearinghouse for voter information. One of the tabs on that website provides sample ballots.

The choice to include on the ballots just the candidates who are in contested races was an election board decision made separately from the decision to hold elections just in two council districts.

Any questions, Wheeler said, can be answered by her office: 812-349-2612

VanddeWiele said, “I would probably recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know…I think both parties have newsletters or other ways of contacting members or at least the active ones. Just getting the word out as well as we can to everybody is probably a good idea.”

Here’s the list of polling locations approved by the board. (Links go to Google Maps.)

District 2 Bloomington 14 Arlington Heights Elementary
District 2 Bloomington 13 and 17 Genesis Church
District 2 Bloomington 5 and 23 Indiana Memorial Union
District 2 Bloomington 7 Unitarian Church
District 3 Perry 20 Binford Elementary
District 3 Perry 21 East View Church
District 3 Bloomington 21 Evangelical Community Church
District 3 Bloomington 22 Meadowood Retirement
District 3 Bloomington 9, 10, and 16 University Elementary

The lack of elections in most of the city poses potential confusion not just for voters. Candidates typically have to file a pre-municipal campaign finance report. This year those are due Friday, Oct. 18. VanddeWiele told the board she’s checking to see if candidates who have uncontested races actually need to file a report. She said she’d let candidates know through their parties. In any case, she said, candidates all have to file an annual campaign finance report.

During the meeting, Wheeler reported that the LAT (logic and accuracy) test of the county’s voting equipment, which had been conducted on the county’s voting equipment the previous Friday, had resulted in a 100-percent score.

The three-member election board includes a member of each of the two major parties and the county clerk. Besides VanddeWiele, the Democratic Party’s member, it includes Hal Turner, the Republican Party member, and Nicole Browne, Monroe County’s clerk. Appearing as a proxy for Browne on Thursday was Jack Davis, who works in the clerk’s election division.

Davis noted at last Thursday’s meeting that prospective vendors for the county’s RFP that’s been issued for voting equipment will demonstrate their equipment for the public on Oct. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m.