Elections Board continues study of vote centers
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 10:00 AM
This being a nonelection year locally, the Jefferson County Elections Board was not swarmed with a litany of ballot and voting issues throughout the day Tuesday. But the board did continue developing a plan that could significantly change how county residents vote.
A committee of public officials and local voters will gather early next year to study switching from the voter precinct model to vote centers.
Unlike the traditional assigned voting precincts, county residents can vote at a voting center regardless of where they live in the county. There are 26 precincts in Jefferson County.
The Council County and Board of Commissioners - which have the final say as to whether Jefferson County becomes a vote center county - both have approved resolutions to allow the Jefferson County Election's Board to proceed with a vote center study group.
The elections board decided during its meeting on Tuesday that the earliest possible switch to vote centers would come during the 2015 primary for the city elections.
The vote center committee meetings will begin Jan. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Superior Court at the Courthouse. Public hearings will follow in the spring.
The committee will consist of the entire elections board, one County Council member, one commissioner, former or current poll workers, absentee board member, both major political party chairs, Madison City Council member, Hanover Town Council member and active registered voters. There is no set number for the committee.
The Vote Center Pilot Program started in 2007, focusing on Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties - large, medium and small counties. Following the program, the Indiana General Assembly made voting centers an option for all 92 counties in 2011.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is a proponent of vote centers, having visited Madison earlier this year to encourage the change. Lawson has said the centers would reduce poll worker costs and make voting easier for residents.
Indiana allows counties to have as few as one vote center for every 10,000 registered voters. With more than 22,000 registered voters, Jefferson County would need three centers, said Clerk Karen Mannix, who serves on the elections board.
The elections board has considered two stationary locations - the hilltop and downtown - and a center that travels to different townships during the early voting period and then stops at Hanover on Election Day.
Elections board member Merritt Alcorn said he believes the voting center model could eliminate some of the absentee voting because the voter will no longer be confined to casting a ballot at an assigned location.
"I think some people have been using absentee voting to deal with trying to vote on Election Day, because it can be inconvenient. So (the vote centers) will hopefully eliminate some of that," he said.