11-member vote center committee OK’d by Monroe County election board, members not yet appointed

Eleven people are now being sought to fill positions on a committee that has been established to study the question of implementing vote centers in Monroe County.

Vote centers are different from the kind of precinct-based polling locations currently used by Monroe County. At a precinct-based polling site, only voters from specified precincts can cast a ballot there.

Vote centers are polling places where a voter who is registered in any precinct can cast a ballot. For election administrators, it means some additional planning—to make sure that all the different ballots, which are tied to different precincts, are available for voters across the county.

It’s conceivable, but by no means certain, that vote centers could be implemented in time for the 2024 election cycle.

But based on election board deliberations on Thursday, the prevailing sentiment appears to be against trying to implement vote centers in a way that is rushed.

The board removed a requirement in a draft document that said the study committee had to complete its work no later than 150 days after its first meeting.

The election board’s action to define the committee and its work—which came at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon—was not a surprise.

At its previous meeting, in the first week of July, the board had voted to create the committee, but left the specific details about its composition and the scope of its work until its August meeting.

At Thursday’s meeting, Lisa-Marie Napoli served as a proxy on the three-member board, for Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne.

The board’s Thursday’s action assigns the county clerk the role of appointing five of the study committee members: three independent registered voters; a representative from The League of Women Voters; and someone who “represents through lived experience and/or professional expertise with functional or access needs.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the Monroe County Democratic Party’s election board appointee, David Henry, indicated that the person with expertise in accessibility was meant to be someone like the late Randy Paul, who was a fierce advocate for the disability community, especially when it came to accessible polling locations.

Henry is also the chair of Monroe County’s Democratic Party. In that role he will have three appointments to make under the committee structure adopted by the election board. That’s the same as his counterpart, Monroe County Republican Party chair Taylor Bryant.

Both county party chairs have to make one of their three appointments a student enrolled at a university or college in Monroe County.

In Thursday’s election board action, there is no explicit prohibition against an elected or appointed official serving on the study committee.

Responding to a question from The B Square after the board’s meeting, Henry said it is not his intent to appoint any elected or appointed officials to the study committee.

Under the guidance of county attorney Molly Turner-King, on Thursday, the board made several edits to the draft document that defined the details of the committee’s structure and its work.

A key responsibility of the vote center study committee is to produce a vote center plan, which will include a list of the locations for each vote center.

Turner-King noted that state election law  requires a total of 17 separate elements for a vote center plan. (A list of those 17 requirements is included below.)

Of Indiana’s 92 counties, 60 have adopted vote centers.

A key step in the process is the unanimous adoption of the vote center system by the three-member election board. In 2011, the creation of vote centers in Monroe County foundered on the requirement of that unanimous vote. Casting the vote in opposition was the Monroe County Republican Party’s appointee, Judith Smith-Ille.

The Monroe County Republican Party’s current appointee to the election board is Judith Benckart. On Thursday, Benckart pointed to the vacant election supervisor position as a reason to go slower, instead of faster.

The recent resignation of senior deputy clerk Tressia Martin—her last day was July 28—means that the county’s current election resources are further diminished. Benckart noted that in 2025 there are no elections held—which would provide a chance to work on the topic of election centers. She indicated that the 2026 election cycle would be a reasonable target for implementation.

Henry weighed in against “paralysis by analysis” and cautioned against leaving the timeframe for the study committee’s work completely open ended.

Benckart’s remarks came from the perspective of community acceptance. “It’s going to take time to get the community to look at this and accept this. And we don’t want to rush,” Benckart said. She told Henry, “I understand your concern as well. So we don’t want to leave it open ended. But at the same time, we don’t want to push it through.”

If the process is rushed, Benckart said, “My fear is that we won’t get the consensus of the community to actually support this.”

IC 3-11-18.1-4 Vote center plan; requirements [IC 3-11-18.1-4
Sec. 4. The plan required by section 3 of this chapter must include at least the following:
(1) The total number of vote centers to be established.
(2) The location of each vote center.
(3) The effective date of the order.
(4) The following information according to the computerized list (as defined in IC 3-7-26.3-2) as of the date of the order:
(A) The total number of voters within the county.
(B) The number of active voters within the county.
(C) The number of inactive voters within the county.
(5) For each vote center designated under subdivision (2), the number of precinct election boards that will be appointed to administer an election at the vote center.
(6) For each precinct election board designated under subdivision (5), the number and name of each precinct the precinct election board will administer consistent with section 13 of this chapter for an election that is not being held in each precinct of the county.
(7) For each vote center designated under subdivision (2), the number and title of the precinct election officers who will be appointed to serve at the vote center.
(8) For each vote center designated under subdivision (2):
(A) the number and type of ballot variations that will be provided at the vote center; and
(B) whether these ballots will be:
(i) delivered to the vote center before the opening of the polls; or
(ii) printed on demand for a voter’s use.
(9) A detailed description of any hardware, firmware, or software used:
(A) to create an electronic poll list for each precinct whose polls are to be located at a vote center; or
(B) to manage data in an electronic poll book through a secure electronic connection between the county election board and the precinct election officials administering a vote center.
(10) A description of the equipment and procedures to be used to ensure that information concerning a voter entered into any electronic poll book used by precinct election officers at a vote center is immediately accessible to:
(A) the county election board; and
(B) the electronic poll books used by precinct election officers at all other vote centers in the county.
(11) This subdivision applies to a county in which ballot cards are used at a vote center. For each vote center designated under subdivision (2), whether each ballot card printed will have the printed initials of the poll clerks captured through the electronic signature pad or tablet at the time the poll clerks log into the electronic poll book system printed on the back of the ballot card immediately before the ballot card is delivered to a voter.
(12) The security and contingency plans to be implemented by the county to do all of the following:
(A) Prevent a disruption of the vote center process.
(B) Ensure that the election is properly conducted if a disruption occurs.
(C) Prevent access to an electronic poll book without the coordinated action of two (2) precinct election officers who are not members of the same political party.
(13) A certification that the vote center complies with the accessibility requirements applicable to polling places under IC 3-11-8.
(14) A sketch depicting the planned layout of the vote center, indicating the location of:
(A) equipment; and
(B) precinct election officers;
within the vote center.
(15) The total number and locations of satellite offices to be established under IC 3-11-10-26.3 at vote center locations designated under subdivision (2) to allow voters to cast absentee ballots in accordance with IC 3-11. However, a plan must provide for at least one (1) vote center to be established as a satellite office under IC 3-11-10-26.3 on the two (2) Saturdays immediately preceding an election day.
(16) The method and timing of providing voter data to persons who are entitled to receive the data under this title. Data shall be provided to all persons entitled to the data without unreasonable delay.
(17) In a county in which a majority of votes are cast on optical scan ballot cards, any additional procedures to provide for efficient and secure voting at each vote center, including ballot on demand printing.

One thought on “11-member vote center committee OK’d by Monroe County election board, members not yet appointed

  1. There is a lot of research and documentation and a report from 2011. This renewed effort won’t need to go slowly.

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