Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Extended hours and new location planned for early voting

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By LILY REX

Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey reported at the recent Election Board meeting that she’s planning to host extended hours at early voting sites and offer five early voting locations instead of four for the 2020 election.

Bailey started the meeting Thursday afternoon with a moment of silence for former Board Chairman David Welter, who passed away unexpectedly last month. Welter, 59, had been on the Election Board for just under a year, and was a professor at Valparaiso University’s School of Law.

“His passing in December surprised us all, and we’d just like to honor him and his time on this

Board with a moment of silence,” Bailey said.

Bailey then began her report, and said she hopes to expand early voting in preparation for a large turnout in 2020. Typically, Porter County has had four early voting sites: Hebron Town Hall, the Porter County Administration Building, the North County Government Complex, and Chesterton Town Hall.

Pending confirmation from the Union Township Fire Chief, Union Township Fire Station No.2 will be the fifth early voting site. The site has been a polling place before, Bailey said.

There will be two Saturday early voting dates as usual, but hours will be extended on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those days, voters can vote early between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will remain the same: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In addition to early voting changes, the Board approved Bailey to permanently change three polling locations. Only one is in Duneland. Westchester Precinct 17, which voted at Ethel Jones Elementary School in Portage in 2019, will now vote at Ethel Jones permanently.

The Board held off on any approvals until staff gets the OK from Union Township Fire Station No. 2 and the Council reconsiders the purchase of a special purpose vehicle Bailey wants to use for voter registration drives and potentially early voting.

Mobile Vote Center/

Vehicle Purchase

Bailey updated the Board on her quest to acquire a special purpose vehicle Elections & Registration can use for transporting equipment, hosting voter registration drives, and even a mobile early voting center. Elections & Registration having a vehicle will help the department avoid pricey rentals or borrowing the Coroner’s van. Bailey said insuring the vehicle, which would resemble a senior center van and be wheelchair accessible, would cost $1,600 a year.

Bailey had enough money left in her budget at the end of 2019 to cover the cost of the vehicle, approximately $62,000, but the County Council was skeptical of the plan and asked for more information. The funds Bailey had left over have since been rolled back into the general fund, but she could access them by requesting an additional appropriation.

Board member Jeff Chidester asked how the Council feels about the proposal. “I think the appreciate the time and effort it has taken to look into this,” Bailey said, but she added that some members see the value of using the vehicle for transport and aren’t keen on the idea of a mobile vote center.

Chidester said the idea is about access and having a mobile vote center won’t redirect any resources. “We’re not gonna rob Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “This is gonna be a big election, so we want to make it as voter friendly as possible with as little congestion as possible at every polling place.”

Chidester motioned to approve the proposal. The Board obliged, with new member Paul Rausch abstaining on account of his not being present for earlier discussions on the plan.

Bailey invited the Board members to support her at the next Council meeting where she will be asking for a funds transfer and approval to purchase the vehicle again.

Bailey proposed taking the vehicle to Haven Hollow Park in South Haven, Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor, and Pennsy Park in Kouts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays in April if the purchase and mobile vote center idea is approved. Bailey hopes taking early voting to parks could be more user-friendly for busy parents and voters who may have to walk to cast their vote.

Reorganization

The Board reorganized, electing Paul Rausch, of Chesterton, as chairman and Ethan Lowe as Vice-chairman. Monica Conrad was also reappointed as the Board’s attorney.

Rausch was appointed to fill Welter’s seat shortly after Welter’s passing. Rausch is retired from Arcelor Mittal’s New Carlisle plant, and said serving on the Election Board is important work and a good opportunity for him to help the community.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Rausch said. “The idea of free and fair elections is important to be and always has been.” The election process should be efficient so Porter County residents are confident and secure in their vote, Rausch said, “That would be the reward.”

Staff Report

Bailey reported the second candidate information session was a success, with attendees learning hands-on how to note expenses and donations in campaign finance reports. Bailey said she got compliments about the lecture as well. “I think they were realizing that filing their reports correctly takes a little more time and effort, and you shouldn’t wait until the eleventh hour.”

A video of the session will be posted on the Porter County Government YouTube channel, where those interested can also find the video of the first session.

In other campaign finance business, annual campaign finance reports were due last week. Director and Assistant Director of Elections Sundae Schoon and Becky Rauch reported not all candidates have filed.

“A good portion of the people who are delinquent don’t realize that if they didn’t raise any money or if they lost, they still have to file,” Rauch said. Rauch also said candidates should take care to provide an email address that they check frequently when filing.

Candidates for local office are not required to report campaign donations if they’re seeking a position that pays less than $5,000 per year; however, Rauch said candidates who have started a committee and filed in the past must continue filing regardless of pay, unless they officially disband their committees.

Other Business

The Board adopted resolutions to approve the department’s inventory list, the use of e-poll books, and the hiring of 16- and 17-year old poll workers (provided they have a grade point average of at least 3.0). Bailey said she’s looking for 600 poll workers this year.

The Board rescheduled its February meeting. It meets next Feb. 18 at noon in Room 102A of the County Administration Building.

Bailey made a reminder that petitions of nomination to run for Governor are due Feb. 4. Filing for local office ends at noon Feb. 7. The deadline to withdraw candidacy is Feb. 10, and the deadline to challenge someone’s candidacy is Feb. 14.

 

Posted 1/21/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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