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April 11, 2014

NASH: Voting changes for Floyd County

— Only a few weeks remain before primary elections in Indiana and this year things will be a little bit different in Floyd County. Instead of traveling to your neighborhood precinct, every voter in Floyd County can choose from any of the 10 vote centers to cast their vote. These new vote centers will allow the voter more flexibility when deciding where the go to cast their vote.

Over the years I have worked several times at different precincts as a poll worker and I can tell you that there is always a lot of confusion when it comes to voting. For a few years I worked at Green Valley School which had two different precincts voting at the same locations. One precinct voted at one end of the gym, the other voted at the other end and from what I had been told it had been the same way, forever.  

Throughout the day someone would approach the table and their name would not be in the book.  When asked what their address was it was soon discovered that they were in the wrong precinct and would have to go to the other end of the gym. The response was almost universal, “I voted here last time.”

To make matters worse, one of the precincts was within city limits, the other was outside. That meant that one in every four years, when only city elections were held, the other precinct would not be voting at all. That didn’t stop people from showing up, ready to vote since it was Election Day. Some people would leave angry because we would not allow them to exercise their right to vote, even though there was no election for the resident.

Then there were the people that would show up and have no clue where they were suppose to go vote.  In the era before smart phones, or cell phones at all, it was sometimes hard to get them to where they needed to be. Then there were the people that had recently moved, or hadn’t ever changed their voter registration. They may had already been purged from the books.

“Vote Centers” will eliminate the problem of people showing up at the wrong polling place since every voter is allowed to go to any of the 10 locations. You don’t have to go to the one located nearest the neighborhood that you live, you could go to the one nearest to the place that you work. That could eliminate people having to rush home and get to their own voting location before it closed. This could cut down on the number of people who show up at the very last minute.

I am sure there will still be a lot of confusion on Election Day, especially the first year of using the centers. No matter how much you try to inform voters there is always someone who shows up without the proper understanding. One time while I was working as a poll worker in Floyd County, I was approached by someone who couldn’t figure out how to vote against Anne Northrup. At the time she was a congresswoman from the third congressional district in Kentucky. The voter was somewhat upset to discover that the only way to vote against her was to move to Louisville.

Living in a metropolitan area that includes another state, nearly all of the political ads that we see on television are from candidates from Kentucky. This voter probably saw one of those ads and decided that she didn’t like that particular candidate. It makes it worse because their primary Election Day is a few weeks after ours so we still get to see the ads even after our candidates are chosen.

There is usually a lighter turnout for primary elections, and since there is no presidential election this year, fewer people will go to the polls anyway. Hopefully it will be a smooth transition from precinct voting to vote centers. With a lighter turnout this spring, it will be easier to work out the kinks in the system, and hopefully by the time 2016 comes around everyone will be on the same page on how to vote.

If you don’t know anything about the “vote centers” you can learn about them at the Floydcounty.IN.Gov. The county clerk has mailed out fliers explaining how the new voting will work and where you can go to vote. I have heard that some candidates will be passing out some information door to door also.  

Last year at the Harvest Homecoming the clerk had a booth set up and you were able to use the actual machines that will be used this election. I was given a quick tutorial on how to use the machines and from what I can tell they will be easy for most voters to get the hang of. If you don’t vote in this year’s primary election I suspect that they will have the same setup again this October.

Voting is one of our fundamental rights and it is important that we are well informed when we exercise that right. Just showing up on Election Day isn’t enough, you have to understand why you are there.  This year it is also important that you show up at one of the 10 vote centers instead of the precinct location that you are use to.

— If you are unsure of what to do on election day you may email me at dmatthewnash@gmail.com  I may not have all the answers but I will get you in contact with someone who does.

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