Monroe county election board looks ahead to 2020 after imposing one fine, waiving two others, finding no violation of electioneering law

Members of Monroe County’s election board met Thursday afternoon to review some logistical issues related to elections in 2020 and to wrap up some loose ends from this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington.

The loose ends included late filings by three candidates of their campaign finance forms (CFA-4), which were due by noon on Oct. 18. Another loose end was an allegation of illegal electioneering at the polls on Election Day, but the board found no infraction had been committed.

Dave Rollo, who represents District 4 on Bloomington’s city council and who won re-election to that position, was first up to explain to the three-member why his CFA-4 form was late. He realized just an hour before the deadline, that he had received some contributions through his website that he had not included on his form. It took him a while to reach the website administrator, he said. That meant he missed the noon deadline. Rollo’s paperwork shows it was stamped as received at 3:38 p.m.

Rollo Screen Shot 2019-12-06 at 9.24.02 AM
Timestamp for  Dave Rollo’s CFA-4 form. The deadline was Oct. 18 at noon.

Chair of the election board, Carolyn VandeWiele, reminded Rollo that it’s always and option to go ahead and file the form on time, even without all the information, and then file an amended form later.

The board’s policy, VandeWiele said, is to waive the fine for a first offense, give a stern warning for a second offense, but still waive the fine, and levy a fine only after two offenses. It was Rollo’s first time to miss a deadline, so he didn’t owe a fine.

Steve Volan, who represents District 6 on the city council and won re-election this year, didn’t attend the election board’s meeting. His paperwork shows that he missed the noon filing deadline by even less time than Rollo. Volan filed at 2:30 p.m. But VandeWiele said it was not Volan’s first offense, and the three-member panel voted to impose a $50 fine.

The third candidate who missed the deadline was Marty Spechler, who made an unsuccessful bid to return to the city council—his term ended four years ago— representing District 3. Spechler missed the deadline by a week, filing on Oct. 25. Spechler told the election board he didn’t think he needed to file a form, because he didn’t spend any money on his campaign. When he was told he still had to file the form, he did so, he said.

VandeWiele said all candidates should know which forms they need to file. But it was Spechler’s first offense, so he didn’t owe a fine.

In addition to the late filing, Spechler had to sort out another issue with the election board. A citizen had filed a complaint with the board alleging that Spechler had been electioneering on Election Day at Meadowood, a retirement home, inside the poll area known as “chute.” The chute is defined in the state statute as “the area or pathway that extends fifty (50) feet in length, measured from the entrance to the polls.”

The established fact was that a business card of Spechler’s, with a note on the back that encouraged a vote for him, was found on a table inside the chute. The polls are set up in a lounge area of the retirement facility.

At the meeting, VandeWiele quizzed Richard Gunther, the citizen who made the complaint. (He’s not related to Andrew Guenther, who was serving on Thursday as the Republican Party member of the board, as Hal Turner’s proxy.) VandeWiele established that Gunther had not seen Spechler at the polls, and specifically had not seen him place his card anywhere.

Spechler told the board that his card was there because he’d visited Meadowood the day before and left some cards in the “cubbies” of some friends of his who live there. On Election Day he was nowhere near any of the polling sites, he said, because he’d gone to the movies. That’s consistent with the Election Day plans he described to The Beacon before Election Day. He said he was planning to see “Motherless Brooklyn” with Edward Norton at the AMC 12.

VandeWiele and the rest of the board concluded that there’d been no violation of the electioneering law.

The board discussed briefly the need for election inspectors to be vigilant about sweeping the chute area for campaign materials before polls open. The polling location at Meadowood is different from others because it’s a place where people live. VandeWiele said it might be necessary to find a way to delineate the chute area more clearly in the lounge.

Polling locations for next year’s primary and general elections were topics discussed on Thursday, but not decided .

Indiana Memorial Union is proposing to move the polling site inside the IMU from the University Club to the solarium for the general election next year, but not the primaries. The board recessed its meeting on Thursday in order to go review the physical layout of the IMU facilities.

Another possibility of a polling site change is from Edgewood High School, to the Ellettsville town hall. Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne, said she preferred schools as polling locations, because they are compliant with ADA and HAVA requirements. VandeWiele said one factor in any decision will be that high school officials have asked that the school not be used as a polling site.

If the Ellettsville town hall is used as a polling site, the board is hoping that some traffic control can be provided by police on Election Day, to make the left turn into the town hall easier for voters.

Another facility issue, touched on briefly by the election board at its Thursday meeting, were the accommodations at Election Central, located in the old Johnson Hardware building at 7th and Madison streets. It’s shared with the county’s department of corrections, which limits the kind of configuration that can be used for early voting.

On Thursday, the election board also got an update on the new election equipment the county is buying for use in 2020. County attorney Jeff Cockerill told election board members he thought a contract with the chosen vendor, Hart Intercivic, would probably appear on the board of commissioners meeting agenda for Dec. 11.

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