News and Tribune

July 31, 2013

Having their say on voting in Clark County

Elections board accepts public comments on vote center pre-plan


JEFFERSONVILLE — William Meiners doesn’t mind that the Clark County Board of Elections is looking at changing the way elections are conducted. But he’s not a fan of the vote center pre-plan being considered by the board.

“The vote center pre-plan seems to be a cookie-cutter approach obtained from outside of Clark County, with a lot of marketing razzle-dazzle that is misleading and not well researched,” Meiners, Jeffersonville, wrote to the board in a public comment on the issue. “Most importantly, the vote center pre-plan will put giant question marks in place regarding the integrity of Clark County’s vote. If a new voting system is desired, it should be built around one that is much more difficult to defraud.”

Meiners’ written comment was the only one submitted prior to a meeting of the elections board on Wednesday, but several concerned citizens showed up to voice their concerns about the plan. Additionally, several used paper and pens during and after the meeting to make sure their concerns were registered when the elections board convenes a public hearing to vote on the plan, as public comments were only accepted in writing.

Vote centers are being pursued by County Clerk Barbara Bratcher Haas to help relieve the county of some of the hefty costs of running elections. Any voter in Clark County could vote at any vote center location. Under the current system, voters can only vote at their own precinct on Election Day.

“Vote centers bring to bear new technologies to revolutionize the voting process,” the pre-plan states. “Instead of traditional precinct-based polling sites on Election Day, the vote center concept calls for vote center locations where any registered voter from any precinct can go to cast their ballot and retrieve their correct ballot style.”

If the draft version of the plan were to be implemented, 10 vote centers would be open on Election Day.

The exact date of the public hearing for the elections board to weigh in on the vote center plan is not yet known. The Democratic Party’s appointment to the board — formerly held by Drew Adams, who resigned in June — has not yet been filled. Bob Bottorff, the chairman of the Democratic Party, was not at Wednesday’s meeting to comment on vote centers, and instead sent Democrat Andrew Steele. Haas said that once the Democratic Party’s appointment is named, the board will schedule the public hearing.

Meiners acknowledged in his comments that vote centers have some inherent advantages, such as reduced manpower, but said his largest concern is that not every vote cast at a vote center will count.

“One of the most important components of a voting system is voter confidence that the votes are actually counted and not changed or lost,” Meiners wrote. “It is impossible for an intelligent person who understands computers, the Internet, and programming to have any confidence in an election where direct-recording election voting machines are utilized.”

After Haas opened the meeting, she was peppered with questions from citizens in attendance. Loren Christman, a Democratic Party precinct committee member from Charlestown, said he worried that the plan does not call for enough workers at each vote center.

“I think it behooves us to have an overabundance of workers instead of not enough,” Christman said.

Haas pointed out that the number of workers at each vote center would be determined by the elections board based on the population of the area near the vote center. Christman also said he believes that areas in the more rural parts of the county would be underserved, but Haas said all locations and equipment mentioned in the plan are tentative.

Jeffersonville City Judge Ken Pierce asked about the number of vote centers that would be open during elections.

“All of that is subject to amendment by unanimous vote of the board of elections,” Haas said.

The election board’s vote on vote centers plan must be unanimous before it can be considered by the county council and commissioners, which must pass it by a simple majority to ratify the implementation of vote centers.