The Porter County
Election Board is asking residents who cast their votes at the Portage early
voting site between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday Oct. 27 to recast their
votes due to poll worker error where two poll workers did not initial each
ballot, as required by state law.
Two poll workers at
the North County Complex, 3560 Willowcreek Road, handled between 118 and 122
ballots improperly, according to County Clerk Karen Martin and Democrat
Director of Voter Registration Kathy Kozuszek. Both the Voter Registration
and Clerk’s office have been trying to contact the affected voters since
Monday, when the Election Board held an emergency meeting to form a
On Monday, the
Board was leaning toward asking the voters to recast their votes, and
considering any of the affected votes that aren’t recast as provisional
ballots to be considered for validity after the election.
Kozuszek blamed the
error on a lack of training for both the involved poll workers, who were
fill-ins, and didn’t receive the same training as others. Martin responded
that they both still got one-on-one training. “I spoke to both of them the
night before, and they said they were prepared,” she said.
Member J.J. Stankiewicz proposed a resolution to allow the votes to be
counted as provisional ballots automatically so voters wouldn’t have to
return to the polls. Kozuszek and Victoria Gresham, a Republican
representative of the Clerk’s office, said they haven’t been able to contact
all the affected voters. Kozuszek said five people she reached have said
they’re willing to come back in, but many are disillusioned with the way the
County has already handled their votes and some voted early specifically
because of limited mobility.
There was no
support for the resolution from Martin, who is an Election Board member in
addition to being the Clerk, and Republican board president David Bengs.
Shouting from the packed audience didn’t dissuade them.
Ethan Lowe urged against Stankiewicz’s resolution, saying the Board must be
persistent in telling people to revote because counting the votes as
provisional is no guarantee they will be part of the final tally. Lowe said
the Board is doing a disservice to the voters if they don’t make that clear,
and that voters may opt not to revote because they feel safe with their
ballots counted as provisional.
In fact, Lowe said
poll worker error is not a reason under state statute that requires approval
of a provisional ballot. The ballots are approved at the discretion of the
Election Board ten days after the election.
responded, “That to me is a threat. That is a threat, which is after the
fault of the county. It is the government that screwed up, not the voter.
How can that make a vote invalid, if the county by negligence has made the
Bengs adjourned the
meeting abruptly, citing the fact that the Board’s decision hasn’t changed
since Monday. Despite an audience of dozens, that included elected
officials, he offered no public comment period.
Kozuszek stood up
and urged two poll workers with complaints to air their grievances. Despite
being adjourned, the Board remained seated to hear it.
said she called in August wanting to work the polls and was ready to give up
after her emails and calls went unanswered until yesterday, when she and up
to a dozen other people went to the Clerk’s office to complain about the
lack of communication. Engel said she was disturbed that Martin yelled at
her yesterday. Martin yelled in response to say she hadn’t done that.
Kozuszek said she
wanted to know the Board’s contingency plan if there aren’t enough poll
workers on election day.
Martin defended her
efforts, saying she offered online training and gave assignments to
interested people between Sept. 21 and Oct. 9. Martin claimed either her or
another employee in her office has contacted every poll worker who worked
the primary. Martin deflected blame for any shortage, saying party committee
chairmen are supposed to forward her the names of enough interested workers.
said that Democratic Committee Chair Jeff Chidester had not provided enough
names. Lowe, Martin and Kozuszek argued and Chidester chimed in from the
back row that he has made every effort to provide information and hasn’t
gotten enough people.
Michael Simpson has also not provided enough names, though Lowe and Martin
focused on Chidester.
Bengs had enough
and pounded his gavel to remind everyone that the meeting had been
He asked that
further discussion be taken elsewhere.
her question of what the Board will do if there are not enough poll workers
to staff all 84 polling locations.
Bengs first told
her the meeting has been adjourned and didn’t answer. When Kozuszek asked
again, he offered a frustrated shrug, and said, “I guess we’ll deal with it
when we get to it.”