Election notebook: In-person voting starts next week, vote center committee to start meeting

Early in-person voting in Monroe County is set to start next Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the election operations building at 3rd and Walnut streets. [Indiana Voter Portal]

Just one Bloomington race is contested—the District 3 Bloomington city council race between Democrat Hopi Stosberg  and Republican Brett Heinisch. [Added Oct. 7, 2023 at 10:15 a.m. On Friday, a ruling  was issued on would be independent candidate Joe Davis’s lawsuit to gain ballot access for the Bloomington mayor’s race. The case was dismissed.]

Voters who live outside the city, but still within the boundaries of the Monroe County Community School Corporation, will have a chance to vote on a referendum about raising property taxes by 8.5 cents to fund early childhood educational programs.

At Thursday’s meeting of Monroe County’s election board, county election supervisor Ryan Herndon distributed the detailed schedule for in-person early voting. The table of times and days is included below, and are listed on the B Square’s prototype community calendar.

Thursday’s board meeting featured some additional appointments to the vote center study committee that was previously established by the board in July.

Even though the 11-member board still lacks two appointments, the board wants the group to go ahead and start meeting, given that nine members is enough to make a quorum.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, a point of contention got aired out—about pay for election workers, who are preparing for the elections. County attorney Molly Turner-King wants the local salary ordinance to be amended to square it up with state statute, so that workers will be paid as they have been in the past.

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.

The usual precinct-based polling locations will be used for the upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections.

In July, as part of the process for adopting vote centers, the election board created a vote center study committee.

The vote center committee is supposed to produce a plan, as part of the requirements for eventually establishing vote centers.

In August, the board spelled out the requirements of the 11-member group. Appointments are to be made by the party chairs and the county clerk.

The board assigned three committee appointments apiece to the county chairs of the Democratic Party and Republican Party, and five to the Monroe County clerk, Nicole Browne.

The appointments assigned to the clerk are broken down like this: 3 who are independent of political party; 1 who is a member of the League of Women Voters; and 1 who “represents through lived experience and/or professional expertise with functional or access needs.”

In September, the board accepted five of the appointments.

Named to the vote center committee in September were: Ilana Stonebraker; Hal Turner; Debora (Ralf) Shaw; Daniella Wheelock; and Stacy Kowalczyk. Stonebraker was appointed by Democratic Party chair David Henry, who also serves on the election board. The other appointments were made by Browne.

At Thursday’s meeting, four more appointments were accepted by the board. Three were made by Monroe County Republican Party chair Taylor Bryant: William Ellis, Danny Shields, and herself. The fourth came from Monroe County Democratic Party chair David Henry: Evan Anish Nayee.

Even though Henry and Browne still have one more appointment apiece to make, the board wants the nine to go ahead and start meeting.

Sorted out at Thursday’s election board meeting was an issue involving election worker compensation. Monroe County clerk told her election board colleagues that the issue arose when some election workers were mistakenly overpaid and they reported the mistake.

On closer scrutiny, county attorney Molly Turner-King found a mismatch between the county’s salary ordinance and state statute and wanted to pursue a change to the salary ordinance to get the county’s practices squared up with state law.

Appearing in front of the board on Thursday were election lead workers John Letner and Peggy Roberts to describe the kind of work they do leading up to an election like the one on Nov. 7.

Letner described how the election co-leads are responsible for bipartisan poll worker training, which involves conducting two-hour courses for the workers. Letner said the leads start preparing six to eight weeks before the actual voting begins when they meet with the election supervisor to review any changes and plans for the upcoming election.

Letner described how the work includes updating the master poll worker listing, making decisions about retaining or inviting new volunteers, and contacting potential new workers. They are paid only for the work they do at Election Central, at 7th and Madison streets, Letner said, but their actual work includes many hours working from home, using personal devices, making calls and texts to finalize schedules, all without compensation.

Browne had invited Letner and Roberts to describe their work to counter any perception that they do not deserve to be paid. When they concluded the description of their work, Browne said, “Not only have you adequately explained, you’ve actually, for me, justified an increase.”

Turner-King told the board, “It’s not a question of anyone doubting the hard work that the [election worker] leads are putting in.” She continued, “We all acknowledge that they’re doing a fantastic job of making our elections run smoothly. It’s not that we don’t want to pay them.” She wrapped up by saying, “It’s just we have to make our salary ordinance and the state statute match.”

Based on the back-and-forth at Thursday’s meeting, it sounds like election workers will be paid as they have been, but a salary ordinance change could be put in front of the county council sometime soon.

In-Person Voting Schedule for Monroe County Fall Elections
Dates Open Close Location
Oct. 11 – Oct. 13 8 a.m. 6 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Oct. 16 – Oct. 20 8 a.m. 6 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Oct. 23 – Oct. 27 8 a.m. 6 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Oct. 28 9 a.m. 4 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Oct. 30 – Nov. 3 8 a.m. 6 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Nov. 4 9 a.m. 4 p.m. Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Nov. 6 8 a.m. noon Election Operations at 3rd & Walnut
Nov. 7 6 a.m. 6 p.m. Polling Sites