News and Tribune

Election 2012

January 31, 2012

Clark, Floyd counties considering vote centers

Any eligible voter can cast a ballot at a center

NEW ALBANY — Floyd and Clark counties will at least explore the idea of switching to voting centers in time for the 2014 elections.

Floyd County Clerk Linda Moeller has slated a public meeting for 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 to discuss voting centers, which were approved by the state General Assembly in 2011.

The centers — which any eligible voter can use — are touted by state election officials as a way to streamline services while allowing voters flexibility as to where they cast their ballots. Gauging interest and forming study committees to research the local impact of vote centers are the initial steps called for in the process by the Indiana Election Division.

“Now is the time for people to come and learn and speak out,” Moeller said of the upcoming work session.

While the forum is open to all, she specifically invited school officials, poll workers and elected leaders who play a direct part in local elections. The forum will be in Floyd County Circuit Court, located in room 413 of the City-County Building.

Clark County Clerk Barbara Bratcher-Haas said she will hold public meetings on vote centers in the coming months as well.

“I don’t have anything scheduled right now, however, definitely Clark County wants to go to vote centers,” she said Monday.

County election boards must unanimously approve switching to vote centers. If OK’d by the election board, vote centers then must be approved by the county commissioners and county council.

The final step in the process is submitting a vote center plan to the state for approval.

“It’s a totally different concept, so they want to make sure everybody is on board,” Moeller said.

One benefit of vote centers, according to the state, is that they allow election officials to control costs. For example, by cutting the number of locations where voting takes place, officials can reduce the amount of poll workers and potentially save on machine costs.

The price of voting machines is also on the plate for Clark and Floyd counties, as both clerks said they hope to have new equipment by the 2014 elections.

Moeller estimated it will cost $500,000 for new machines in Floyd County. But she added the county will need to replace its equipment regardless of whether leaders decide to implement vote centers.

Bratcher-Haas said Clark County has been in need of new machines for several years, but that budget limitations have kept new equipment from being purchased.

“They’re getting old, and they’re getting to the point where parts are hard to get for them if one of them breaks,” she said.

Moeller and Bratcher-Haas agreed that saving money by moving to centers would be great, but that their primary responsibility is to voters.

“It’s a convenience for the voters first, and if it ends up being a cost savings, that’s gravy,” Bratcher-Haas said.

Vote centers are typically set up in schools, fire houses and clubs. Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties were selected for vote centers through a pilot program that ran from 2007 to 2010.

Since the legislation passed last year, Vanderburgh and Fayette counties have also submitted vote center plans to the state.

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