Appeals on fines heard by Monroe County election board, 2023 space needs not yet active topic

At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, the Monroe County election board handled some routine business for the recent primary election cycle: appeals on fines for late paperwork.

On Thursday, just one of the cases got action from the three-member board

That was due in part to the fact that last week’s meeting was canceled and rescheduled for this week—without notice to the late filers that the hearing would be this week instead. That meant that the board could hear only the cases of the late filers who happened to attend on Thursday.

In the one case where the board took action, the board waived the fine as a first offense, which is the board’s typical approach to late filings.

So far, since the May 3 primary, the planned location of election operations for the 2023 municipal cycle has not been a topic of discussion for the election board.

The 2023 elections could see continued use of the former NAPA auto parts store building, at 3rd and Walnut streets, but that’s not certain.

Settling on the former NAPA building as the location for early in-person voting this year—as well as for Election Day voting for several precincts—came only after months-long wrangling between the election board and the county commissioners. It’s the commissioners who make the space allocations.

County commissioners have also not taken up the topic of space allocations for the election division beyond this year.

But the week before last, space for election operations got a mention from commissioners, when they approved a memo about the current use of the former NAPA building as the county’s election operations center.

From the memo:

The property [former NAPA building] will be used for the Calendar year 2022, unless otherwise extended by the Commissioners. Any extension shall be for a full year; however, no extension shall occur if it would impede the Convention Center Expansion project.

What’s the connection to the convention center expansion? The former NAPA building was purchased by the county’s convention and visitors commission (CVC), with an eye towards its use as part of the convention center expansion project. That is supposed to be a joint effort of city and county governments.

The county’s contribution is supposed to include real estate, while Bloomington’s contribution is supposed to include both real estate and proceeds from the city’s share of the food and beverage tax.

The convention center expansion project has been stalled since March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The former NAPA building is still due to get some additional renovations before the Nov. 8 elections. Some renovations were completed earlier this year, so that it could serve as a location for early in-person voting.

Since the primary elections were held in early May, the former NAPA building, with its signature blue color, has been painted light brown with dark brown trim. An awning along the front of the building, with a color matching the darker trim, is supposed to be installed in the coming weeks.

The week before last, at their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $9,615 contract with Strauser Construction to modify the HVAC system in the building. That modification was needed, in order to accommodate the secure ballot room that was newly constructed inside the building.

At its regular mid-May meeting, the seven-member county council approved an additional appropriation of $260,000 to cover costs associated with the building conversion.

The $260,00 includes a $4,800 monthly payment to the convention and visitors commission (CVC)—to cover the gap in revenue that would ordinarily go to the CVC from a potential tenant of the building.

There’s some interest in trying to ensure that the logistic elements of the 2024 elections match those for the 2023 elections. That’s because the 2024 presidential election is expected to be hotly contested, and to feature high voter turnout. That means whatever 2023 election space allocation is decided, would effectively be a decision about arrangements for 2024—if the logistics are to match. And a decision on 2023 needs to be made in about the next six months.

For now, the election board continues to handle its routine business.

At Thursday’s  meeting, the board waived the fine for Washington Township trustee candidate Mary Vandeventer’s late filing. She told the board she was unopposed in her race and had raised no money, and did not realize she had to file a form—it’s her first time running for office. She said she now understands how the process works.

Responding to Vandeventer, election board member Donovan Garletts quipped, “I find it hard to believe that you didn’t know that everything in government comes with a lot of paperwork!” The board waived the fine, which is consistent with its usual practice for a first-time offense.

That was the only late-filing case decided by the board on Thursday.

The other case that was heard was from Anna Abernathy, representing the Monroe County Young Democrats. The organization was three hours late filing its paperwork. Filing deadlines are typically at noon, not the end of the day. Abernathy said the treasurer for the group was new and that she anticipated future compliance.

The board was prepared to waive the fine, but due to a legal wrinkle, it did not have enough votes to pass the motion.

The wrinkle arose because Dominic Thompson was appearing as a member of the election board as a proxy for Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne. Thompson told his colleagues he had to recuse himself because he’s a board member of Monroe County Young Democrats. That meant a vote would have turned out 2–0.

But as county attorney Jeff Cockerill pointed out, the election board needs the concurrence of three members in order to waive a fine. So the board put off its vote on waiving the fine until its next monthly meeting.

The board’s next meeting is set for July 7.

One thought on “Appeals on fines heard by Monroe County election board, 2023 space needs not yet active topic

  1. It sounds as if the NAPA building may not be used beyond this year. Wouldn’t it have been possible to find a more permanent location, especially since the Election Board didn’t want this location?

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