The Starke County Commissioners approved a motion Monday night to direct the Starke County Election Board to move forward with a move from precinct voting sites to Vote Centers.
The lengthy discussion began with Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel providing the commissioners with a resolution that would name Starke County as a Vote Center county. Election Board members Peg Brettin and Proxy Member Dan Bridegroom argued that it’s the position of the Election Board to make that decision with the ultimate approval of the commissioners.
In response to that, Commissioner Kathy Norem said the commissioners support the county council’s effort to reduce the budget with a move to Vote Centers.
She noted that Vote Centers will save the county several thousands of dollars and provide a convenience to Starke County voters who can cast a ballot at any designated location in the county on Election Day with proper identification.
Brettin and Bridegroom threw out many Indiana Codes concerning the establishment of Vote Centers and even said the county doesn’t meet many of the requirements to be a Vote Center county. But when asked if they support the move to Vote Centers, they confirmed that they do. The change has been discussed for many years with no action taken.
When the Vote Center Plan is developed and at least two public hearings are held in the matter, ending with final approval of the commissioners, the Election Board members can transition from paper poll books to e-poll books. E-poll books are required if Vote Centers are established. Steve Shamo from MicroVote provided a demonstration and said that e-poll books provide a cleaner register.
Norem commented that with the current age of technology, Starke County should keep current with the rest of the state.
“I think we need to keep up with the game the way people do it,” stated Norem. “If 63 counties in the State of Indiana have these poll books – most counties are doing Vote Centers. I know they’re doing it in Marshall County and I know they’re doing it in Pulaski County. I don’t want to be the last county in the State of Indiana that doesn’t do Vote Centers. So, from everything I’ve read there’s no reason why we can’t be a Vote Center county.”
In the end, the commissioners agreed to have County Attorney Marty Lucas draft a resolution that would outline the commissioners’ desire to move forward with Vote Centers with a specific timeline in place with the potential of approving a Vote Center plan by the end of the year with implementation in the 2020 Primary Election.