Dearborn County Commissioners will allow a plan to utilize voting centers to proceed.
An electronic voting machine is currently on display in the Dearborn County Clerk of Courts office. The county would need to purchase such voting machines in order to make a potential voting centers plan work. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
(Dearborn County, Ind.) - Dearborn County Commissioners took a step toward implementing vote centers as soon as the May 2019 primary election.
County commissioners Jim Thatcher and Art Little voted 2-0 on Tuesday to approve a resolution allowing Clerk of Courts Gayle Pennington and a vote centers task force to continue pursuing the use of vote centers. Commission president Shane McHenry was not present at the meeting.
If the county uses vote centers, it would reduce the number of polling places in the county on election days. But voters would be allowed to cast their ballot at any polling place instead of having to vote at an assigned precinct.
Dearborn County Clerk of Courts Gayle Pennington told commissioners she and a vote center task force have been investigating a switch to a vote centers model.
“We have a positive recommendation from the election board and a very diverse task force,” said Pennington.
Adoption of the voting centers model is not yet a done deal. Before the county can begin using vote centers, a formal plan must be drafted, filed with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division, and finally certified by the county commissioners.
Pennington says that plan will be developed with citizens input. She expects to hold town hall meetings with the public in the coming weeks and months.
“We’ll listen to the feedback of the people and see what they think about it. This (resolution) does give me permission to move forward,” she said.
It has not yet been determined which poll locations may be eliminated. That will be part of the planning process.
Commissioner Art Little raised the concern that some voters may have to drive further from their home to cast a ballot with fewer polling locations. The trade-off, however, is that all county voters would be able to cast their ballot at any of the remaining polling places.
For example, if you live in Dillsboro but work a 12 hour shift in Lawrenceburg and cannot get home before the polls close, you could go vote at a Lawrenceburg polling place during your lunch break.
Currently, voters may only complete a ballot at their assigned precinct, or at the courthouse during early absentee voting.
With fewer polling places across the county, a vote centers model would reduce the need for poll workers, which both the local Democratic and Republican parties are struggling to find. In the May 2018 election, some precincts did not have bipartisan oversight, Pennington has said previously. Fewer poll workers will also mean a cost savings for taxpayers.
“Some people may have to travel a little further to get to the centers, but I know it will save a lot of money and it’s convenient,” said Little.
Commissioner Thatcher said security of the vote would be paramount.
The county will require new voting machines compatible with the vote centers model. The new electronic machines would print off a paper ballot, leaving an electronic and paper record of the votes cast.
Pennington has said that early voting at the county courthouse will remain an option for Dearborn County voters, too.