Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Board taps Clerk and candidate Karen Martin to run primary election

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By LILY REX

The Porter County Election Board split-voted 2-1 at its meting Thursday to delegate election duties to County Clerk Karen Martin after state officials notified the board that Porter County is the only one in Indiana where voter registration directors administer elections.

The change is in response to a letter sent by the Democratic director of voter registration, Kathy Kozuszek, to some of the board members and other officials in which she refused to handle elections going forward because Porter County’s methods violate state statutes. The letter made its way to some County Council members who at their last meeting put pressure on the Election Board to clarify how the 2018 election will be run.

At that meeting, the Council asked Clerk Karen Martin if her office was prepared to handle an election and Martin said it was. At Thursday’s meeting of the Election Board, she added that full-time staff at her office will be supplemented with two part-time employees on loan from Voter Registration.

Board member J.J. Stankiewicz was opposed to the measure and listed six reasons for his disagreement. One of them: Martin is herself on the ballot in the 2018 election, and Stankiewicz said that state statute forbids her from administering the election. Martin, in response, said that she will not sign off on the results of the election, in accordance with state law, and that the signature stamp on the ballots will be the Circuit Court’s, not hers.

Stankiewicz noted that Porter County has run its elections this way for 50 years and described the letters from state officials as “outrageous,” proposing that they came from people who have never tried cases. He also expressed anger at the Council’s demands for answers and maintained that “This is being done in retaliation because an individual, Kathy Kozuszek, chose to demand overtime pay.”

Kozuszek has threatened legal action over nearly $22,400 in overtime pay for work done on the 2016 presidential election. It was determined in the fall of 2016 that Kozuszek and Republican director of voter registration Sundae Schoon shouldn’t receive overtime because they are salaried employees, and as a compromise the County Council approved a $5,000 per year raise for them.

Board President David Bengs responded to Stankiewicz by saying that the Election Board is not involved in any legal disputes. “If anything, this is bringing Porter County to be in compliance with the state statute,” he said and added, “I think the only thing we can rely on is the Indiana code. I think it’s wholly proper for the county to do so, and it probably should have been done 50 years ago.”

Other Business

The Board also approved five early voting locations: Porter County Administration Building, Room 102A, 155 Indiana Avenue in Valparaiso; Porter County Government North County Complex, 3560 Willowcreek Road in Portage; Chesterton Town Hall, meeting room, 726 Broadway; Union Township Volunteer Fire Station, 267N 600W; and the Hebron Community Center, 611 N. Main St.

Early voting begins April 10. The last day to register to vote is April 9.

 

 

Posted 3/9/2018

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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