I am in agreement, the days of hundreds of precincts and 600 or more workers are long gone, make it easier to vote for everyone not just the politically connected.
The concept of vote centers has been a topic of discussion throughout Indiana for the past several years. Three counties -- Tippecanoe, Wayne and Cass -- have been pilot counties for this program. Implementing vote centers has proven successful in all three of these counties as well as in other areas of the country.
Not only can it provide substantial cost savings to taxpayers, it improves upon the efficiency of the election process as well. In some counties it has actually increased voter turnout by offering voters the option of selecting any county voting location they wish to vote at.
In 2009, the Porter County commissioners assigned a task force to study the feasibility of vote centers in Porter County. The members assigned to that committee were Jeff Chidester, Porter County Democratic Party Chairman; Chuck Williams, former Porter County Republican Party Chairman; and me, as Porter County Clerk. The committee did extensive research regarding vote centers with the three Indiana pilot counties, Secretary of State Todd Rokita's office and the county's election vendor who currently provides services for vote center counties through the nation.
At the March Porter County commissioner's meeting, the committee presented the results of their study and showed unanimous bipartisan support for vote centers in Porter County
The committee found the cost savings to taxpayers in our county could climb as high as $200,000 per year.
Another issue vote centers would alleviate is the problem of locating poll workers. Our county must find more than 640 poll workers for each county election. Vote centers would bring the number of poll workers down to about 120. Currently, the average age for those poll workers is 72. As time goes on, more of these individuals are no longer able to work, and it has become increasingly difficult to replace them.
We also would be able to dispose of two-thirds of our election equipment, on which we must pay maintenance on every year. The problem of having to close polling locations because of poll workers cancelling at the last minute would be eliminated as vote centers have multiple workers at each location.
Finally, the most important issue, vote centers give voters flexibility in voting. They can vote at any location they choose; near their work, by their children's school, close to their mother's home, next to their place of employment.
Vote centers is a concept practiced in other states and is long overdue in our state. All throughout the country and especially in Indiana, businesses have been forced to tighten their belts while still maintaining quality products and services for their clients. The public sector should follow suit.
Implementing vote centers, especially in the larger counties, could provide substantial cost savings to counties while improving the voting process. It is important for our senators and representatives to recognize these benefits and support the option for counties to choose vote centers.
From the office of the Secretary of State:
Monday, The Times published a letter from Hammond Republican Party Chairman Rob Pastore in which Pastore incorrectly stated Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita suggests "satellite voting" as a way to save taxpayer money.
The actual election reform Rokita is supporting is vote centers -- not satellite absentee voting -- and there are important distinctions that need to be clarified.
Rokita has, for several years, championed vote centers as a reform that would move Indiana's elections light years ahead of where they are now and increase election security -- all while saving taxpayers across the state millions of dollars.
Earlier this month, the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute released its study, "Vote Centers and Election Costs: A Study of the Fiscal Impact of Vote Centers in Indiana." Highlights of the study include:
* Vote centers will produce significant savings for all counties that implemented them.
* Vote centers give local election officials more flexibility.
* Vote centers produce immediate and long-term savings.
* Vote centers will significantly reduce the number of voting machines needed to conduct an efficient election.
Pastore is right to urge vigilance in the election process, and he should be pleased to know that vote centers add security on Election Day because it makes in-person voting easier and because each polling location is connected to the statewide voter registration database.
In response to Pastore's concerns about "satellite voting," Rokita does not recommend any changes to the current law that requires counties to offer in-person absentee voting in the weeks leading up to Election Day. In Lake County and many others, this option is offered at satellite clerk's offices.
Lastly, the vote centers section of our office's Web site -- Indiana Secretary of State -- offers a simple description of the differences between vote centers and satellite absentee voting. I encourage readers to review this information so they can have informed conversations with their state legislators about how vote centers can help local governments control spending.
- Scott Bowers, Deputy Secretary of State and Chief of Staff for Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita