5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed

At its Thursday meeting, Monroe County’s three-member election board accepted five appointments that have been made to an 11-member vote center committee.

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.

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

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

Named to the vote center committee on Thursday were: Ilana Stonebraker; Hal Turner; Debora (Ralf) Shaw; Daniella Wheelock; and Stacy Kowalczyk. Continue reading “5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed”

Election board creates study committee: Monroe County could replace precinct polls with vote centers

At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Monroe County’s election board took a small but important step towards the adoption of so-called vote centers as the locations where people cast their ballots.

The board voted to establish a study committee for vote centers, but left the details to be sorted out at its next monthly meeting. Those details include membership, the assigned task, and the timeframe for the group’s work.

In the secretary of state’s seven-step process, forming a study committee is just the second step.

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.

Based on remarks at Thursday’s meeting from county attorney Molly Turner-King, other Indiana counties that have adopted vote centers have taken anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete the process.

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

Deputy clerk Tressia Martin said her preference would be to wait until after the 2024 presidential election before implementing vote centers. Martin is performing the functions of the election supervisor while that position is vacant. Continue reading “Election board creates study committee: Monroe County could replace precinct polls with vote centers”

SB 82: K-12 school buildings could be banned as Indiana polling places by 2024, based on risk to students

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Arlington Heights Elementary School, where voters in the Bloomington 14 precinct cast their ballots shortly after polls opened at 6 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2019. If SB 82 is passed, the school would not be eligible as a polling location starting in 2024.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Last Thursday’s meeting of Monroe County’s election board included an alert from board member Carolyn VandeWiele about a bill that’s been introduced for this year’s session of Indiana’s General Assembly.

Senate Bill 82 would, starting in Jan. 1, 2024, ban the use of elementary and secondary schools as polling locations. The motivation for the bill is security, according to its sponsor, Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R). Continue reading “SB 82: K-12 school buildings could be banned as Indiana polling places by 2024, based on risk to students”

Election equipment vendor choice for Monroe County still getting mulled by board, vote centers unlikely for 2020

The Bloomington city council’s most recent regular meeting fell on Nov. 6, the day after municipal elections were held in Bloomington for just two of six council districts.

Elections had been cancelled by the election board in the other four districts because races were uncontested there. None of the citywide races—mayor, clerk, or at-large city council seats—had more than one candidate on the ballot and no write-in candidates were registered.

A couple of councilmembers on Wednesday mentioned vote centers, as opposed to precinct polling stations, as something that should have been tried, so that elections could have been held everywhere, without incurring too much additional expense.

Asked by The Beacon on Friday, the election board chair, Carolyn VandeWiele, said that completing the statutory process for establishing vote centers for this year’s municipal election, even starting in July, would not have been feasible. It’s also probably not practicable for 2020, she said.

Of more immediate concern is the acquisition of new voting equipment.

Responding to a question about the timetable for selecting a vendor for the county’s new election equipment, VandeWiele said on Friday the committee making the selection was behind the optimal schedule outlined in the county’s request for proposals (RFP). The timetable in the RFP foresaw a vote on the recommended vendor by the county commissioners by their Nov. 6 regular meeting.

The committee is still waiting for answers to questions that it has asked of the state’s election division and the vendors themselves. VandeWiel also said the committee is checking references for the two vendors. The next meeting of the vendor selection committee is scheduled for Nov. 18, she said.

VandeWiel told The Beacon that even if the committee is right now a little behind the optimal timeline laid out in the RFP, “We won’t be behind when it comes to having equipment for the spring…We still have a fair amount of time to deal with this. We will have the equipment on time. It’s just a matter of making sure we’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.” Continue reading “Election equipment vendor choice for Monroe County still getting mulled by board, vote centers unlikely for 2020”