Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Election Board splits over motion to correct error at early vote center

Back To Front Page

 

By LILY REX

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 solution.

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.

Democrat Board 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.

Board Attorney 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.

Stankiewicz 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 vote invalid?”

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.

Elizabeth Engel 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.

Martin repeatedly 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.

Republican Chairman 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 adjourned.

He asked that further discussion be taken elsewhere.

Kozuszek renewed 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.”

 

Posted 11/1/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

Search This Site:

Custom Search